|Fall/Winter Prada Lookbook, AMO, 2011 (source)
||Lanvin Display at Dover Street Market, London (source)
Rem Koolhaas and OMA*AMO, with typical cynicism and criticality, challenge the precedents of retail architecture, most famously in their longstanding collaboration with Prada. This effort revises how luxury itself may be perceived.
The rebranding strategy posits that since the contemporary condition is one of smooth efficiency, luxury is, among other qualities, rough and wasteful. Koolhaas and his team abandoned the majority of Prada store locations to generic fates and concentrated on three ‘epicenter’ stores in major American markets, addressing every part of the brand experience from architecture to IT operations. OMA*AMO’s studies are carried out with amazing crudeness: models bend and tilt, diagrams are blocky, and the most innovative material usage—a porous cast foam—was inspired by a common dish sponge. This sloppy bricolage is wildly juxtaposed with the sensibilities of an earlier Prada. Koolhaas synthesizes his own claims—that shopping has infiltrated every part of modern life and that shopping may be the last bastion of the urban—to deliver a retail concept that injects the chaos of the city back into the store. The Soho epicenter, for example, mimics the clashes of urban environments through a diverse palette of loud interiors: a swooping timber wave (with fold-out stage), resins, foams, plywood socles, mirrors, screens, black-and-white tile, super-graphics, digital displays, and the goods themselves, assembled in a manner that is arguably junky. The gratuitous, stylized primitivism continues in AMO’s biannual lookbooks for Prada and in the Transformer, a hedron composed of various basic shapes that is flipped via crane to accommodate different cultural programs.
Koolhaas and his office alter the diffusion of Prada’s aura through the binary efforts of varied materials and rough graphics, generating retail environments that are both spatially inefficient and, at times, aesthetically challenging. The resulting fashion marketing actively engages ugliness such that the beautiful/ugly dichotomy does not present an important distinction. Implicit in this conclusion are the declarations that luxury may be detached from beauty, beauty from fashion, and finally, fashion from shopping.
Richard Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk echoes in the indefinite space between art and consumerism. Encouraging cohesive lifestyles, its spirit can be found lingering at even a geographic scale.
In the case of Dover Street Market, a luxury shopping emporium shaped by the art world’s influence, Rei Kawakubo’s avant hand touches all: from the designs for clothing and retail spaces (spatial configurations, finishes, fittings, scents and so on) to the selection of store locations. As urban influences permeate Comme des Garçons’ oeuvre by admitting hoodies, high-tops and other signs of the city onto the catwalk, or the chaos of a bazaar inside of DSM, Kawakubo proves that she can also exert her influence back onto the urban landscape. Her presence in a neighborhood attracts others with overlapping values, at times transforming relatively anonymous parts of the city into fresh foci. These shifts in urban programming centralize what lies on the edge.
Erandi de Silva
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