The Prada store in New York City is more than just a flagship store. Rem Koolhaas, of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), has designed it as an “exclusive boutique, a public space, a gallery, a performance space, a laboratory…” OMA have a continuing research programme in shopping, and so the New York’s Prada Epicentre is what can only be called one of their focal points in retail exploration. Opening in December 2001, the opening event featured many celebrity guests in the hope of drawing attention to help with the company’s financial difficulties. On initial observation, this has worked.
The 19th Century warehouse, which sits on a 23,000 square-foot site in SoHo, comes up out of the basement like a Wave – it is this element of the store that challenges what more a fashion store can be. OMA spent two months researching the different ways in which they could “reinvent the retail experience” for the opening, of what can only be called a sensation to opening up new ways of experiencing luxury fashion brands. Selling products and garments is extremely important in having a successful brand; however it is also proven in this particular flagship store that it often pays to have extra space available in order to adapt to various events and performances. This has definitely been a worth while investment for Prada.
The store is extremely flexible in that there is a dramatic wooden curve that drops into the basement level (the Wave) which enables one side to have over-sized steps, which can present accessories, and offer seating to view the concealed stage which drops down from the opposite side of the wave.
The re-constructive space of the Prada store in New York works extremely well conceptually because it allows the label to change the expanse into an incredibly versatile gallery and performance space to suit any fashion event. This can only be advantageous to the fashion brand by allowing the public to enjoy the retail side of the space during the day, and then become a more intimate area for occasions in the evening.
For the purpose of shopping however, there is only a small number of products displayed at entry level on the ground floor and so it does encourage consumers to descend to the basement yet this is much darker and confined which perhaps does not offer any benefit to the selling of the products. As the seasons pass, you can see the potential the space has to offer if the merchandise were to be presented better.
The technology used throughout the store would be more impressive had it been able to adapt to the technological advances more recently. For example, the changing room doors becoming opaque with the touch of a button has been done time and time again since Prada’s opening in 2001, and so the doors now are too heavy and bulky to be seen entirely practical. This is a shame since the overall intentions are great. Additionally, on the ground level, an entire wall is made up of graphics which is powerful come promoting new seasons however it does not appear to be used in this way at all. These are somewhat missed opportunities which the brand could have easily taken advantage of to promote their brand. These areas of technology which have been implemented in the design should be either updated or used beneficially to the overall label and increase sales and environment.
I have chosen to analyse this retail store because I have been inspired by the flexibility the space offers and the endless possibilities should different opportunities for the fashion brand arise. It was important to research and analyse a retail project because this will give me a different angle to draw from when designing my own adaptable space. Despite this flagship store being over ten years old, it definitely holds some lessons for any designer looking at adaptive spaces in a different form.