When it comes to immersive, experiential retail, you can’t really beat Harrods and its epic store takeovers. Chanel and Dior have had their turn and this month saw the unveiling of Pradasphere, a fusion of shop windows (40 in total), pop-up shop, cafe and exhibition.
The exhibition on the fourth floor is the big draw. It starts with glass cabinets telling the story of the beginnings of the 101-year-old brand. Originally purveyors of leathergoods, we’re shown vitrines of ancient paper packaging, handbag frames and luxurious vanity sets for the travelling classes. All give an air of revered Milanese shopkeeper to the proceedings, nicely bringing us back to retail.
The exhibition is an ode to Miuccia’s obsessions, which are translated not just in archive objects and ephemera but in a gigantic digital wall of photo stills, ad campaigns and moving images reflecting Prada’s non-fashion passions such as art, architecture and cinema. In an alcove you can sit and watch specially commissioned films by the likes of Wes Anderson and Roman Polanski to up the Prada experience further.
It’s in the main exhibition where the recurring Prada themes are really hammered home. 40s silhouettes, bowling bags, platform shoes (including 2011’s now-iconic flatform brogues), lip prints, reptile skins and playful arty elements can be seen here, encased in vast, colourful displays of Prada’s greatest hits. It’s a great way to really understand what Prada stands for, in the same (but differently executed) way that Dries Van Noten’s Paris exhibition communicates the codes and concepts of his brand.
Cash rich department stores are the perfect space for fashion exhibitions. Not only can they bankroll them but they can use their own mighty PR machines to market them globally. Plus they bring people in off the streets who might not otherwise venture forth and once captive allow them to linger. The Prada pop-up on the corner of Brompton Rd and Hans Crescent is the perfect souvenir shop to buy yourself a little gift after your exhibition and cafe experience.
Oh the cafe! I get very excited by fashion cafes, because the possibilities are endless and cafes too are a convivial experience that bring a brand to life. In this case, Prada has installed its very own Marchesi cafe, all moss green velvet, seductive sofas and decadent pastries to underscore the retro-luxe fabulosity that Prada is known for. Good luck getting a table though…
Pradasphere is in situ until May 29th at Harrods, Knightsbridge. But you might want to head down this weekend, because – breaking news! – until Sunday, you can order some of the key handbags and shoes from the exhibition to be re-created just for you. Accessory re-editions of some of Prada’s best loved pieces (pictured above, hello heart-print heels) can be ordered via the Pradasphere VIP room on the 4th Floor. But if you can’t make it in person, you can still order by calling the direct line – 0203 036 6218.