Posted: May 25th, 2022
Large retail stores around the globe aim for “similar look” in architecture so their stores can stand out and be an identifying factor for their brand. Even the fast food chains would aim for the same kind of architecture everywhere. However Prada goes against this philosophy of similar look and design and hence aims for architecture as different from its last store as possible. This is Prada’s way of attracting attention and hence should be seen in a different context than what Muccia Prada apparently meant.
Let us thus explain this further. Ever brand has a unique identity and the bigger the brand, the most conscious the company becomes of its identity and identifying factors/features. For example for McDonalds around the world, the main identifying features are the yellow arches that are immediately recognizable all over the world. The same goes for the Polo horse logo or the Lacoste alligator logo which is known and recognized everywhere. But while logo is one thing, the shop design is something totally different. McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC would try to maintain a similar look everywhere with similar kind of interiors and exterior. This gives the fast food chains the environment they are hoping to create everywhere. The similarity is easier to manage and also serves the purpose of identity maintenance and enhancement.
Prada on the other hand is hoping to accomplish something totally different. The reason for its differentiation in store design is not exactly what Muccia wanted others to believe. It is not exactly Prada’s differentiating spirit that is the reason why Prada is trying to make architecture different, instead it is decline in sales and rising debt which is forcing Prada to seek different ways to attract public’s attention. It has been hiring some very well-known architects to design its flagship stores in major locations around the world and the more unique a design the more attention it is likely to receive from the public. This may enhance its image; improve its traffic and eventually the sales. “For a company $785 million in debt and that has tried unsuccessfully going public on three different occasions, opening this store was certainly meant to be an attention-getting device. Rem Koolhaas’ design for the store, which opened in December 2001, had an opening event that featured celebrity guests and even the then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – and thus it would seem the design did at least partially what Prada wanted.” 
Despite its effort to keep one store different from the next, Prada ambitious store designs have only attracted criticism. It is rather an exercise in futility when Prada spends millions of dollars on store designs that do not serve the purpose of offering convenience and a positive shopping experience on the whole. It is very important thus to differentiate with purpose. What that means is the only reason for differentiating should not be attracting attention of the public. It is should be a policy that reflects another deeper and better value and aim than to inspire shock and awe.
Prada is known for its cutting edge designs and it was the famous architect Rem Koolhass who advised Prada on creating unique shopping environment by getting rid of the “flagship syndrome.” The architectural changes prescribed by Koolhass were meant to sell architecture along with handbags. However this has not generated the kind of enthusiasm as the company had anticipated, “Alas, the first of these new stores, the Prada shop at 575 Broadway in Soho is not a staggering reinvention of the retail environment no matter what Koolhass and his followers claim.” (Goldberger, p. 123)
It must thus be remembered that what Muccia Prada said was probably in line with the advice she had received from Rem Koolhass who believed that the firm should get rid of its mint-green stores with similar look and design to get over the “flagship syndrome: a megalomaniac accumulation of the obvious.” (Goldberger, p. 123)
Prada’s problem is pretention. Its new designs have been trying too hard to be important. On the other hand, stores which are equally large or even bigger than Prada’s multimillion stores have been a bigger success because they are essentially offering a positive experience and not exactly trying too hard to attract attention. One such store would be Toys RU.S.. Everywhere in America and even around the world Toys r Us have a similar look and feel. The multi-colored logo itself is highly recognizable and children everywhere know a Toys r Us store when they see one. This is exactly the primary purpose of having a similar look and design. People should not have to read the sign to know that this is where their favorite store exists. Even those who are not yet able to read should be able to identify their favorite store. This is what McDonalds and Toys R Us have been able to achieve while Prada with its differentiating policy may not be able to have accomplished the same.
There is a reason why company spends millions of dollars in creating similar look for their flagship stores everywhere. It is the ability of the consumers to immediately identify and recognize a store and connect it with the brand. It is not an exercise in futility and is not wrong when done correctly.
It is however wise to have a different look and feel if there are still some recognizable elements present. For example even if the architecture is different for each store, the retailer can keep the same paint color on the exterior in order to maintain the brand connection with the consumer. We need to understand why look and design changes which are rather sudden tend to work against the brand instead of in its favor. When Tropicana changed its product design suddenly, it created such furor among the public that company was forced to return to the older design because consumer had developed a connection with the older picture. The same goes for flagship stores. People have a connection with the design, look, feel, logo, slogan, paint color etc. They do not want to lose it because it takes away that sense of connection that had developed with the brand. Hence Prada’s experiment with new designs has received only lukewarm response.
Paul Goldberger. Building up and tearing down: reflections on the age of architecture. Random House Digital, Inc., 2009
“New York Architecture” Accessed May 1, 2011 http://www.nyc-architecture.com/SOH/SOH062.htm
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