Robert Storey, Creative Director and founder, StoreyStudio

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Breed presents…

Robert Storey, Creative Director and founder, StoreyStudio

StoreyStudio was founded in 2009, initially run from Robert’s bedroom. Since then, it has earned an international reputation as a spatial design practice, which creates both temporary and permanent environments like retail spaces, runways and still life sets using sculptural and architectural techniques to push at the boundaries of what’s possible. Clients have included Prada, Hermés, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Louis Vuitton, and the V&A.

Robert himself studied Fine Art at Central St Martins in London, heading to Brooklyn after leaving college, where he worked with artists, filmmakers and set designers, like the Neistat brothers, Janine Trott and Piers Hanmer. On returning to London, he worked with set designer Shona Heath, before starting StoreyStudio aged just 23. He has lived between New York, London and Paris ever since, dividing his time between working at the studios in London and Paris, and lecturing at institutions including the Royal College of Art and Central St Martins.

We caught up with Robert to chat about design, architecture and immersive spaces.

Were you always interested in art as a child?

Yes, always! The majority of my earliest memories involve some kind of creative exercise. My parents recognised it was something that I loved doing, so gave me plenty of space to explore from a young age, I never imagined I would ever work outside of the creative industry.

How do you describe what it is you do when you meet someone for the first time?

I design spaces. It’s a hybrid of sculpture, set and interior design. The spaces usually display fashion garments in some way, or at least tell the story of a product. The spaces can be small or large, temporary or semi-permanent; window displays, exhibitions, presentations, pop ups, store design…

How big a role did going to art college play in what you do now?

It’s tricky to say, I went to an art college in London that had a great fashion design programme. I didn’t have much interest in fashion as a kid but when I made friends at college, it opened up my world to an industry I had never considered working in. Naturally I made connections through studying, which in some way led me down a path alongside lots of other fashion creatives, so opportunities presented themselves to me in fashion set design before any others. 

Were there particular people you knew who inspired you in the direction you took professionally?

At university I was particularly focused on creating art installations or environments outside of the typical white box. I was inspired by the works of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Christoph Buchel, Gregor Schneider, Michael Heizer and James Turrell. In exploring installation art, I realised I was interested in immersing viewers in landscapes with strong architectural intervention and storytelling. My first assisting jobs were working for Shona Heath and Tony Hornecker who inspired and taught me about working within a more fashion-focused discipline. I also became friends with Rafael De Cardenas whilst assisting, who helped me to understand how I can combine interior and set design into public spaces.

Is there such a thing as a typical day for you? If so, what does it consist of?

One of the things I love about what I do is that the projects are always challenging me in different ways, so no two days really follow a pattern in terms of creative output. However, I do, of course, work to timelines and have a design methodology that sees me complete design stages in a relatively rigid way. It depends on where I am with a project as to what I would be doing at a given stage. However, I creatively direct a team of designers at the studio, so my time is mostly spent working on mood boards or refining drawings for presentations to clients.  

What made you decide to move into teaching?

I was asked by the Royal College if I would be interested, and I thought why not give it a go? I had already been mentoring students for a while in a less formal context and had enjoyed cultivating new ideas and talent. I often receive emails or DMs from young creatives looking to get into what I do and realised that I can offer quite a specific insight into a relatively niche industry. 

How do you go about creating an immersive space?

Firstly, we look at the objects or products we are displaying in order to conceptualise an overarching story. There are then certain strategies we put in place to ensure we are acknowledging the various immersive design elements needed within a build, predominantly lighting, sound, materials and architectural details. Within these strategies we build in layers of visual clues which tell the story we conceptualised at the start. We do not design anything unless we can rationalise it to the concept.

What are the projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?

I feel quite proud of all the work we do as a team. However, it was a great experience working with the V&A on the Kimono exhibition. We had never before worked in an institution with objects with such historical significance and it was an honour to learn about those objects and present them to the wider public outside of a commercial context.

Do you have any dream clients?

I think one day I would like to design a hotel. I would also like to design the Met Gala exhibition.

What would your advice be for someone starting out in your field today?

Be open to challenging your creative identity within the context of another brand, but also be sure to know what visually interests you. It’s important to establish your own aesthetic codes in order to adapt them to a brief.

Do you have unfulfilled ambitions?

I would perhaps one day like to return to making sculptures or installations outside of a commercial fashion context.

What’s next for StoreyStudio?

We are currently working on finalising the designs for the Chanel exhibition at the V&A museum opening in September. We have already been working on the project for over a year and are excited to see it finally realised! Beyond that, we are always open to new collaborations and enjoy the diversity of projects that come our way.