It’s been more than 12 years since Herzog & De Meuron‘s Prada store in Tokyo marked a groundbreaking movement of fashion retail design. In an era when Omotesandō avenue in Tokyo was heading to become a Japanese version of Champs-Élysées or Via Montenapoleone, fashion retails were cropping up like mushrooms after rain. Famous Italian fashion duo – Miuccia Prada & Patrizio Bertelli decided to invite famous Swiss architectural duo – Jacques Herzog & Pierre De Meuron, to design their new Japanese ‘Epicenter’. As nothing less then a success could have been expected from this team up, Prada opened their door in 2003, as a second major player in this street, forestalled only by Louis Vuitton in 2002.
Apart from attention obtained inside of the architectural and fashion community, store was hitting the headlines and reaching amazingly wide audience among Japanese and international population. ‘Buzzing’ all around about the new honeycomb six-floor structure, widely perceived as ‘architectural next big thing’ this store easily became Prada’s statement of visionary approach.
But let’s make a ‘small step back to the future’. It’s 2015. What exactly changed in the meanwhile?
How did architecture and fashion approach evolved and in what level fashion brands were ready to accept these movements? Well, competitors are emerging and everyone is running the same race. The only way to win a marathon is to run more determined than ever.
Miuccia Prada was, and still is, truly visionary person ready to accept challenges and that’s why her company still runs this race very successfully. Throughout the years number of their collaborations with artists, designers, architects, have grown, including variety of names. Probably most famous name on this list and in the same time one of the biggest competitors to Herzog and de Meuron is Dutch architect Rem Koolhas, with his OMA office in Rotterdam. He collaborated with Prada on a huge number of projects such as: ‘Epicenter’ in New York, ‘Transformer’ in Seoul, series of catwalks and recent project of ‘Fondazione Prada’ in Milan.
Among all of this projects there’s been a new retail design project assigned purposely to an ‘old friend’. On March 26th 2015, Miu Miu opened a new store, designed by Herzog & De Meuron, positioned diagonally across from the celebrated Prada ‘Epicenter’. Apart from this interesting decision made by Mrs.Miuccia of choosing an old friend for a new design, that says a lot about her limitless mindset; there is even more interesting design approach by Mr.Jacques & Mr.Pierre proving her right.
Setting up a landmark more then a decade ago, pre-defining context for all the upcoming brand building their retails in this neighborhood, architectural duo came back to shine again. In this context that in the meanwhile became a pedestal of architectural show off, due to their fault mainly; this time they had a more difficult task. Exploring the potential of a smaller, more intimate design, they used the following thoughts to channel ideas: “more like a home than a department store, more hidden than open, more understated than extravagant, more opaque than transparent”.
The matte surface of the steel paneled facade seems like “a box volume that had been sliced open with a big knife” producing curiosity among people passing by. Purposely not discovering too much, customers are invited to come in and discover on their own. Interior itself is welcoming and warm..in typical pastel colors characteristic for Miu Miu with comfortable chairs and sofas, creating antithesis towards minimal and cold, but diverting exterior.
No matter how exquisite, a shop interior was not enough to make an architectural fashion statement in Tokyo a decade ago. To stand out you were supposed to build something extraordinary on a larger scale. Herzog & De Meuron did exactly what needed at that time. But times changed. On a playground of architectural extravaganza they firstly started, in order to distinguish themselves 10 years later, is was necessary to change the rules of the game. They were brave enough to step back and do something truly minimal, but in the same time truly innovative. And they proved to Mrs.Miuccia that their vision works, helping her visionary company shine once again.
A true aesthetic symbioses of visionary minds. A decade later, still working amazingly.
sources & photo credits: