Prada wanted to avoid a single concept applied to different outlets. In New York, the 214m2 store is treated almost like stage scenery, with flexible custom-designed metal merchandising units that can be slid around the store to change the display or clear space. Steps normally used to display shoes will become seating. The other striking features will be the Wave, a ‘zebrawood’ floor of the ground floor retail space that dives down to link up with the adjacent basement selling space.
In the 195m2 Los Angeles store, shoppers will first notice the hill that they walk over at the entrance to the store. The Hill contains a cave for accessories on the other side. In the pavement outside will be windows down to the basement display area. On the next level up luggage is displayed on a series of revolving carousels, as in an airport baggage reclaim area. In San Francisco, the store is to be arranged over four, small floors. The key feature will be a new translucent foam wall covering, devised by OMA.
‘It’s like big air bubbles in plastic – little balloons that have been crushed to give a beautiful structure. It gives a very nice effect and can be used to hang clothes,’ says OMA head of PR Jan Knikker.
This will be used again on the store facade in combination with perforated steel and also makes an appearance in the other two US stores. Another first for OMA is the use of glass that turns opaque at the flick of a switch for the walls of the changing rooms.
Prada is also making a serious attempt to crack the challenge of integrating e-commerce with traditional stores. OMA’s sister company AMO is developing an e-commerce facility linked directly to the new stores. Screens in the stores will show details of garments and footage of them on the catwalk when the garment is scanned. By reading the customer’s store card, it will also show details of previous purchases and can store information about clothes the customer has tried on but not bought, to enable the customer to buy them on-line at home. The new Prada website will launch next year along with the stores.