There’s always a lot for a design team to consider when developing a concept for a brand’s flagship store. But when that flagship is located on one of the most popular fashion streets in the world, Montenapoleone, the pressure is really on. Such was the case for the team at Mantova, Italy-based poddaponti architetti.
Sergio Corneliani, stylist and art director of Corneliani, sought for poddaponti architetti to design the high-end, luxury men’s clothing and suit brand’s new knock-out Milan flagship boutique as one that would not only make a bold, elegant statement but also create a welcoming atmosphere for its elite executive clientele.
“The most important goal was that the flagship ‘must work.’ The store’s customers had to feel elegant and comfortable, the shop’s staff had to find it functional, and, most of all, the company must successfully be able to sell his product,” says Daniela Podda, associate architect of poddaponti architetti. “A boutique is an instrument for selling the product. The product has to be exposed better than a museum so that people who visit it can understand the product’s value and want to buy it.”
To balance the feel of superior luxury and hominess, poddaponti architetti looked to contemporary Italian luxury for inspiration but strategically incorporated warm touches to create a comforting interior. Grigio Imperiale, a creamy grey Italian marble with elegant veins, covers store’s floors, offering a warm and unifying base palette that contrasts nicely with Corneliani’s other stately elements, which include gloss-varnished ebony furniture and leather upholstered seating, mirrored and stainless-steel surfaces, and suede-covered niches. The feature walls flaunt black, polished carbon stripes with steel accents and play nicely with the deep wood that frames the modern-styled, white Corneliani logo. Neutral, warm tones are highlighted throughout the space.
Most challenging for the design team, however, was the space itself. “It was impossible to have a regular shop apportion. We had limited space on the ground floor, a mezzanine (but the height was not enough for a shop), and a office space on the second floor (without considering the under-roof space used for a stockroom), so we really only the small area on the ground floor to work with, which provided the storefront only two windows,” recalls Podda.
As such, the entire project was made in sections. poddaponti architetti decided to design a vertical boutique by demolishing all the ceilings, which allowed the team to create seven flooring levels connected by stair elements. “We thought about this shop like a promenade architecturale, moving from different kinds of spaces to others to emphasize the proportions of both small and larger spaces. Our [team] designed a completely new space in the context of the building. Only the storefront remained untouched because of the buildings regulations of the city of Milan,” Podda says.
Podda particularly appreciates the raumplan effect—a design style made popular by Austrian architect and theoretician Adolf Loos (1870–1933) in which buildings feature a single, airy space—and how it served to enhance the Corneliani’s grandeur. “When designing fashion boutiques, you usually have to follow a plan. This time we only defined the layout and went from there. It was amazing.”
But, according to Podda, only visitors to the space can derive the full effect of raumplan. “We think the design is impossible to describe—in words or photos. This particular type of space is so concentrated and the relationship between the different spaces are so emotional that it is necessary to see them in person to fully understand the sensations the design can give.”
poddaponti architetti’s advice: Take a nice visit to Milan, via Montenapoleone and Corneliani’s new boutique.