If you forced this reporter to shop only one major label for the rest of her life – above Calvin, Chanel, Gucci, and Ralph – Prada would be it. The thinking woman’s fashion label since Miuccia Prada took over her grandfather’s handbag company in 1978, Prada doesn’t tend to follow trends or seasonal directives. She just makes things that are cool on their own for customers who understand that she’s doing “something clever”.
There was a lot of hype when the Rem Koolhaus-designed Soho Prada boutique opened in 2001 – and just how often do things live up to their hype? This particular store does not mess around, as it all became apparent one balmy summer night.
For the first fifteen feet, the shop looks like an average dark, foreboding designer retail joint – and then everything changes. The sales floor dips down one story into the basement level and then rises back up, like a skateboard ramp. The effect is surreal, and dizzying. (This reporter had to hang on tight to the stair rail as she made her way downstairs.)
The lower level is set up like a library, with racks of merchandise accessible by hand-cranked rolling shelves. This is where the ready-to-wear and major accessories are kept, as well as the markdown sections:
A series of dresses (in jewel tones of red, hot pink, purple, ivory) with a 1960s-mod-That Girl-YeYe-feeling cost $1,690. Images of these dresses don’t exist on the internet, but they were what you would expect: cap sleeves, gold buttons, drop-waist pockets, mid-thigh lengths. In the clearance area hung a white Oxford shirt with beading and rhinestones embroidered on the collar. The shirt had been marked down to $1,074 and would be so flawless with black capri pants and a nude flat. A perfect pair of red leather pumps was $650, and could be worn all on their own.
Many of the items from the Spring/Summer 2014 collection had rhinestones on them (shoes, sweaters, clutches), which made this reporter want them all the more. The environment, however, and the design, is what takes the whole experience to another level. The Prada boutique is perfectly lit, and just ominous enough, to inspire clandestine purchases. It’s a label that reminds a person of grandeur, and how parts of old Europe are haunted. As this reporter was having this thought, the theme from “Halloween” came on the store’s soundtrack, and she left in a hurry.