Fashion shows have come a long way from being mere saunters up and down a plain, raised catwalk. Clothing boutiques are no longer just stop-and-go spaces for you to get what you’re looking for and then leave. Fashion has evolved beyond just clothing. Runway and store designs are more important than ever in attracting a consumer and establishing a reputation as a brand.
A notable example of this phenomenon is Prada, whose captivating sets season after season provide an unforgettable atmosphere when viewing the show. Rem Koolhaas’ OMA has worked extensively with Prada, designing sets for the men’s and women’s runway shows as well as boutiques and other projects, for more than 25 years. A notable set design from the company is that of the Spring/Summer 2015 menswear runway, which was a wooden catwalk that appeared to be floating on a blue pool. Other projects include the Prada boutiques in New York, London, and Shanghai, as well as the Fondazione Prada’s permanent location in Milan. Architecture partnerships in fashion are more than just for aesthetic purposes – they are for consumers. For the Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collection, AMO (a branch of OMA) hung large plastic sheets, some straight, some curved, above similarly shaped concrete benches, where the guests sat to watch the show. The set gave the presentation, which featured cartoonish prints and a messy, disheveled look, a unique mood that somehow served in tying everything together. What this “mood” does is digs into the head of the viewer – you, too can be part of this, just buy our clothes and you’ll see.
The new Dior boutique in Seoul designed by Christian de Portzamparc is another example of the necessity for beauty in fashion to extend beyond just the clothing to attract more clients. The gorgeous store’s exterior is comprised of gigantic, shapely panels designed to imitate the petals of a flower, a hallmark of Dior’s designs, but in a modern, clean white cut, something that surely bears the mark of designer Raf Simons’ taste. Even if you don’t know anything about Dior or fashion, this store is something that can’t be missed. And the inside is no different. Decorated by Peter Marino, it is just as representative of the merging of the old and the new, with grand chandeliers juxtaposed with futuristic blue lighting in metallic frames, sleek silver edging glass shelves that are built into the wall, and a spiraling metallic staircase. Accessories are placed in glass cases, and clothing is displayed on mannequins hung from the ceiling, as well as positioned throughout the store. The whole thing subtly screams luxury and futurism, so much so that “BUY ME” might as well be plastered on the wall in neon lights. The entire store, interior and exterior alike, is designed to be a big, glittering jewel to our magpie-like sensibilities.
Dior isn’t the only brand to take store design a step beyond the classic. Balenciaga, Anna Sui, Rick Owens and Givenchy all have flagships or stores that seek to recreate the feeling of wearing their clothing. Come inside and you can be part of the brand, if only for a moment.
The atmosphere and design of a store or set is created with the intent of mirroring the aesthetic of the brand, as well as the taste of the designer. The magnetic attraction you feel when walking by a beautiful store, the hypnotic experience of watching a meticulously planned fashion show is exactly the type of response designers are trying to elicit. Beyond clothes, what the careful curation and artistic direction of clothing boutiques or runway shows are trying to sell you is a full experience – an immersion into the designer’s head, a momentary step into a dream that hopefully entices you to step out with a little piece to remember it by.