Prada’s temporary store is no ordinary pop-up shop, with a super-luxe feel and extravagant design that would give most permanent stores an inferiority complex.
You get the tone of Prada’s pop-up store in Paris from the fact that if you walk the wrong way up the Avenue Marigny, which ends with the Place Beauvau where the store is located, you get escorted across the road by a reasonably friendly gendarme. The store is cheek by jowl with the Elysée Palace – you know, the place where French president Nicolas Sarkozy does his stuff.
And as such, it’s not a typical location for a pop-up store – eschewing the grittier parts of the City of Light in favour of one of the French Capital’s most impressive addresses. For many, Prada is the design mark of quality by which everything else is judged. The Milanese atelier’s taste is rarely, if ever, called into question.
This may explain why, as well as a staggeringly exclusive address, the silver plate on the outside of the store tells visitors this a Prada “Temporary Store” – anything else would just be vulgar.
This is a store that pushes the notion of pop-up to the edge of what’s possible. It opened in July and will be around until March 2010, but feels about as far removed from other stores that trade under the pop-up label as it is possible to be, and still manages to put high street retail to shame.
Key looks and merchandise
The c-word (cheap – don’t be coarse) is not necessarily something that goes hand in hand with the pop-up phenomenon and in the Prada store this is definitely the case.
There is no hint either of discounting or of last season’s merchandise and the two-floor store puts accessories, footwear, bags and belts, on the ground floor, while outerwear and occasionwear, with a few separates, are found in the three rooms that form the upper floor.
While there is much to commend about Prada design, in this store, as in so many of the brand’s others, there is still the sense that when it comes to clothing there really is only one colour that counts: black. Yes, there are some deep red burn-out velvets used in the eveningwear area upstairs and some copper velvet day coats, as well as a smattering of petrol blue outerwear.
On the ground floor, the leather goods are standard Prada, almost classic, with variations on brown, dark brown and black used throughout.
Prada, like other luxury brands, tends to have a certain reputation when it comes to service. If you’ve got the money, nothing is too much trouble. If you haven’t, you can come away feeling distinctly down-at-heel.
That’s not the case here. The staff were incredibly helpful even though it was almost immediately apparent that your correspondent was unlikely to form any part of their core customer base.
And for those with the inclination and the means to indulge, the service was discreet and unobtrusive, but ever-ready when the occasion required. This is what service in a luxury store should be about, but frequently isn’t.
This is where the 6,135 sq ft store comes into its own, with a design, created by Italian architect Roberto Baciocchi, that on the exterior and the interior takes the Mirabeau bridge in Paris as its starting point and goes from there.
Stand across the street from this store and it looks, in part at least, like a green-painted cast-iron bridge under which some brightly coloured mannequins have taken shelter. The game is given away by the word Prada plastered across the faux-metalwork of the bridge, but it’s a good bit of trompe l’oeil whichever way you cut it.
Once inside, this is not the normal world of the pop-up. At the front of the ground floor the same mannequins that you’ve observed from the outside are gathered, clad in Prada partywear, in a group around a sofa and standing on the black and white marble-checked floor.
Overhead, as upstairs, the light for the space is supplied by a series of theatre-style black gantries to which spotlights are attached. And the bridge motif that forms such a major part of the exterior is used as a graphic around much of the perimeter and on the staircase.
The ground floor is divided into two sections, with the mannequin vignette at the front and leather goods in the larger space at the back of the floor.
Upstairs, the layout is rather more complex. There are three rooms, all with connecting square arches that afford those with the time the chance to have a look into the connecting rooms from one of the several identical sofas that are placed around the store.
This is quite a simple piece of store design, but the extravagant bridge motif and the hush that come from the noise-deadening beige carpet make this a luxurious place to frequent. There is absolutely no sense of the temporary.
Visual merchandising and luxury should go hand in hand, and this is certainly the case in here.
About half of the comfy contemporary sofas scattered around the two floors of the store are occupied by groups of mannequins that have been positioned to look as though they are deep in fashionable conversation.
And in the best tradition of luxury display techniques, the garment floor is very thinly merchandised with all of the stock side-hung rather than front facing. The footwear and bags on the ground floor are displayed around the perimeter on a simple chromed shelving system or mid-shop using museum-style metal cabinets. As with the store design, there is a restraint that is in keeping with the essence of the brand.
Would I buy?
There are points on a journey around this store when it’s quite hard to fathom the difference between this temporary store and any other super-luxe store. This means that if Prada is your thing, then this store will almost certainly have a strong appeal, but if it isn’t, then you may not be tempted. The charming staff might well swing the balance when compared with other shops operating in this sector.
The pop-up store that thinks and acts like a permanent luxury store. Step inside this one and you could be inside any emporium for the well-heeled in the world, and the rough-and-ready ethos that informs the majority of temporary stores is nowhere to be seen.
Address Place Beauvau 92, Paris
Design Roberto Baciocchi
Size 6,135 sq ft
Nearest metro Champs Elysées – Clemenceau
Design features Trompe l’oeil Mirabeau bridge exterior and interior graphics. Black gantry lighting. Party mannequins used throughout, and checked marble floor
Opened July 2009
Closing March 2010