Prada’s New Universe: SoHo Store Gets Chinese Makeover

Prada is redecorating in SoHo. The company has mounted the second installation for the Rem Koolhaas-designed emporium. Here’s a look.

"We always conceived of that space as one that was unpredictable, one that would change character and wouldn’t always be the same. So that’s what we’re doing," said Koolhaas.

The store’s conceit has evolved from depicting Prada’s images of beauty and fashion to portrayals which reflect renderings of Chinese life, like a person eating a bowl of noodles, someone getting a haircut or having their ear examined by a doctor. Other elements included in the installation are fleets of vintage, occidental-looking mannequins from China along with video and digital stills of other vivid eastern images. Stretched along the entire store’s length is an expanse of wallpaper that depicts a stadium in China with thousands of people holding up placards to form a larger image of Asian women with uplifted arms.

"Everyone is obsessed by China now. I have always been obsessed with it," said Prada. "I like that world in general and there is so much happening there now. Everybody is going there like artists and architects, it’s a place full of new life."

"We called it ‘Parallel Universe’ based on our recent experience in China," said Koolhaas. "We did all kinds of documentary and other research and are simply presenting some of that in Prada without necessarily making it explicit. There’s the idea that there is an entirely different world there.

"It’s also very interesting to show in New York such a very forward-looking and really enthusiastic culture like China," said Koolhaas.

However, the goal isn’t just to transport shoppers to another country; the concept goes beyond that to incorporate cultural activities into the space. Over the last year, dance recitals, documentaries and film screenings have been held at the SoHo store, including Fischerspooner’s DVD launch and actor Fisher Stevens’ directorial debut film, "Just a Kiss."

"Everybody wants to do things in the store," said Prada. "We are overwhelmed with requests."

The cultural programs are run in conjunction with Fondazione Prada, the philanthropic and cultural arm of the company.

Using the SoHo store as both a retail and cultural incubator space also affords Prada a certain amount of freedom to try new things on a smaller scale that may or may not work when implemented in hundreds of Prada stores all over the world.
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