Innovative and often of the avant-garde and with a different working dynamic, Concept Stores have become the definitive shopping experience. There are shops and shops, but these sanctuaries dedicated to fashion, art and culture, recreate unique environments based on creativity and design. Let us peer into a fascinating world, of exclusive and inspiring spaces, that flag up the new way of consuming in the XXIst century.
Visionary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, the creative genius behind brand Comme Des Garçons, maestro, philosopher and fashion intellectual, it was who ten years ago defied the concept of the sole brand in order to subsequently branch out to unite synergies with like-minded spirits as creative as her. In 2004 her wish materialized in London, an old office building in the then less trendy area of Mayfair. The aim was not only to invite others to show their work, but also to involve them in a project in which they would be free to develop their own ‘universes’.
The appearance of the so-called Concept Stores, were a response to the invasion of the big commercial chains, the collapse of the previously all-pervading but now waning brand and a new definition of luxury. Their success could be interpreted as largely down to offering a precise context to a product chosen by the consumer and to the creation of a unique space where different creative disciplines interact. Something that goes further than a mere commercial transaction becoming an emotional experience, where selling goes on but it is also entertaining.
These luxury “concept-stores” are far from the concept of an established business. It is not simply “selling for selling’s sake” rather they possess an Added Value. Their ideology differs from the typical commercial models, in order to appear in challenging architectural environments, where fashion, gastronomy or art result in pure fascination. Places of broad-minded spirit revealing a universe that exists beyond the established limits of purchasing.
Spread around the world, these ‘out-there’ bazaars demand sophisticated clients looking to be surprised by products that they didn’t even know existed. Welcome to the age of the Concept Store.
Became the paradigm of the concept store since its inauguration in 1997, in its interior one can find all kinds of continually recyled products and prêt-a-porter fashion brands for men and women, such as Saint Laurent, Vaccarello, Carven. Where: 213 rue St. Honoré, París (www.colette.fr)
- 10 CORSO COMO MILAN
Pure Milan, self-aware and replete with fashion. They say that Carla Sozzani was the pioneer of what we know today as concept stores, in its broadest sense. Behind the door, various separate spaces: shop, restaurant-café, exhibition space, book-shop, right up to a 3 room mini-hotel. Their selection of prêt-a-porter garments is exquisite. Where: 10 Corso Como (www.10corsocomo.com)
One of the best in the capital, captained by John Skelton with visits by appointment only. All housed together, it offers a range of surprising products and items like Balenciaga and Rick Owens. At night it transforms into the Late Night Chameleon Cafe decorated by Gary Card. Where: 18 Shacklewell Lane, London (www.ln-cc.com)
This concept Store is a real treasure-trove, where form and concept go hand-in-hand in a perfect 21st century shopping exercise. A white space in which an impeccable mix of brands, accessories, beauty, home, gourmet food, a place for kids and an exquisite selection of the rarest and most provocative objects. Where: Potsdamer Strasse 81, Berlin (www.andreasmurkudis.com)
- DOVER STREET MARKET GINZA / TOKYO/ NY
Rei Kawakubo culminates her philosophy of the concept store with this Japanese subsidiary. Over seven floors, a selection of products from 10 Corso Como, a space-boutique dedicated to Comme Des Garçons, a bakery-café, products from Alexander McQueen and all of it with more of a market appearance than a store. Where: 6-9-5 Ginza, Tokyo (http://ginza.doverstreetmarket.com/index.html)
- LE MILL / MUMBAI
Known as the Colette of old Bombay, three widely experienced women have transformed an old flour-mill into a space spread over three levels, housing a selection of the best oriental and western fashion, accessories and objects from India. A fascinating place reflecting the taste of its founders. Where: 17-25 Nadhal, Jani Road, Mumbai (www.lemillindia.com)
- Ra13 / ANTWERP
Anna Kushnerova manages to reinvent the philosophy of Concept Store, delving into the designer fashion world with around 60 clothes and accessory lines including its own, and combines it with gastronomy, book-shop, vintage clothing, music and art-gallery. Far from the official shopping experience, Ra13, concentrates all that Antwerp brings to fashion, experimentation and the avant-garde. Where: Kleine Markt, 7-9 Antwerp (www.ra313.be)
- CARA & CO / SYDNEY
Rosa Alpert, brings the same philosophy from her first concept store in Moscow but adding a gastronomic experience. Inspired by the world of Colette, 10 Corso Como and Dover Street Market, this space in the very heart of Sydney looking more to the most out-there fashion and less to well-known brands. Where: 188 Pitt Street, Sydney (www.caraandco.com)
- DROOG / AMSTERDAM
In the very centre of the Dutch capital, we find this very light symmetrical space, overlooking a patio, integrating shop, cosmetic boutique Cosmania, a café and even a hotel of just one room. Concentrating the virtues of the functionality of Dutch culture with a high dose of design and endless creativity in a unique experimental exercise. Where: Staalstraat 7b, Amsterdam (www.droog.com)
- GALLERY MADRID / MADRID
Deep in the ‘Barrio’ of Salamanca, where for over a decade one can come across this space reserved for good taste. One can find from the best vino for a supper, to the best fragrance for the home. Limited editions of books, high tech goods, cosmetics the latest in decoration and of course the latest national and international collections. A different way of seeing life via design. Where: C/ Jorge Juán, 38, Madrid (www.gallerymadrid.com)