LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Elegantly Waisted


Miuccia Prada & Rem Koolhaas celebrate the reopening of the breathtaking Prada SoHo store with an exhilirating exhibition devoted to skirts.

Turning heads and swirling skirts in SoHo – Prada peppers its monumental landmark store with an exciting homage to the humble skirt

Combining the unique talents of Miuccia Prada and celebrated architect Rem Koolhaas, the Prada Epicenter store in New York's SoHo is currently playing host to an exhibition of an unusual kind. Running until the end of May, 'Waist Down: Skirts by Miuccia Prada,' is devoted to that most simple of feminine garments—the skirt—specifically skirts from Prada, dating from the first collection in 1988 to the present day, each one personally selected by the famously skirt-wearing designer herself.

The 2000-square-meter store, originally unveiled in December 2001, and recently reopened following some fire and flood damage in January, has strongly influenced the layout of the exhibition. It's a mirror of how Koolhaas's creative vision has influenced the future of retail with this experimental and monumental store.

At a time when the ubiquity of luxury retail outlets was beginning to start to grate on the minds of globetrotting shoppers increasingly finding the same cookie-cutter stores in every city they visited around the world, the Prada Epicenter store was an audacious attempt at retail revolution, creating a store that proposed a unique architectural and sensorial experience to further burnish the luxury buying experience, providing clients with a large sense of exploratory involvement.

Reinventing a location that was the former SoHo branch of the Guggenheim Museum, Koolhaas created a controversial sweeping space as an interactive conceptual experiment in retail intentionally doubling as a cultural venue. Its architectonic features were groundbreaking – undulating zebrawood "wave" steps, "hanging city" cages, a folding stage, and all are utilized as part of "Waist Down" to give the exhibition ultimate impact. Upping the wow factor, an elevator constructed as a cylinder of glass on a hydraulic piston cost nearly one million dollars to produce. Along with such delightful gimmicks as glass dressing rooms that turn translucent at the touch of a button, the store also focused heavily on electronics and information technology, using widespread tagging and hand-held computers which means that instant information is always, literally, at hand.

When the store was temporarily shuttered the retail world lost one of its temples of reference. So it was fitting that the reopening of the space should coincide with, and thus be marked by, the arrival of a conscience-expanding exhibition devoted to skirts. The exhibition, which has already enjoyed large success during its brief stint at the Tokyo Epicenter and at Shanghai's Peace Hotel, features 100 skirts brought to life in innovative ways by AMO, the think-tank of visual architecture shepherded by Koolhaas.

The resulting exhibition examines the oft-overlooked skirt in a new light, showing the creativity and evolution that something as simple as the skirt undergoes. Circle skirts spread flat in all their circular glory and vacuum-packed to hang like arresting wall art, other skirts standing on plinths like stiff sculptures, suspended skirts swishing mechanically, skirts in the elevator doubling as lights to be switched on and off by foot pedals, large magnifying glasses to examine details up-close – all of it takes the humble skirt to a new plane of reverent preciousness while highlighting its utilitarian and adaptable nature. Much like how the SoHo store has changed our perceptions of what a shop is and should be.

Though May 31, 2006
Prada Epicenter SoHo
575 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 1 212 334 8888

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