More Is More
The flamboyant fashions inside Roberto Cavalli's Milan flagship get a dose of techno-cool from Studio Rota & Partner
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
When Italian architect Italo Rota calls for "the end of minimalism," he could well be speaking about fashion designer Roberto Cavalli's approach to fashion. So it's appropriate that the colorful couturier called on Studio Rota & Partner to design the flagship store for his casual line Just Cavalli on glamorous Via della Spiga, in Milan's luxury-fashion district. With its red-carpeted gleaming-steel stairway, 21-foot-long saltwater aquarium, and pumpkin-shape faux-leather-lined elevator, the three-level emporium is as delightfully over the top as a Cavalli python-print mini dress.
Rota had already designed two shops for Cavalli in Moscow and Miami, but the Milan project required far more than storefront theatrics. The building, which previously housed fashion designer Romeo Gigli's offices, had to be expanded and totally reconfigured. To accommodate the stairway and elevator, the structure needed to be reinforced and an all-new mechanical system installed. The enlarged premises encompass 5,400 square feet—but not all of it is dedicated to clothing. Though shopping may be Milan's primary pastime, eating and socializing tie for a close second place. When all three converge, that's entertainment—and that's what Cavalli wanted.
"It's a concept store," says Cavalli, a native of Florence. "You can enjoy a cocktail, meet friends, do some shopping." Rota and his partner Alessandro Pedretti transformed a former basement storeroom into a restaurant lounge complete with a DJ station. The cocoon-like ground floor—with its walls and ceiling upholstered in pillowy white vinyl—is home to accessories and a coffee bar, in case you need a caffeine rush to fuel a foray to the second ' floor. That's where you'll find the men's and women's collections, displayed in what Pedretti describes as "a cold, futuristic ambience," one that's new for the Cavalli image.
Mirror, stainless steel, translucent glass, and stark-white surfaces form a digital-ice-age background throughout the store, but the top floor marks the most complex expression. Two 72-foot-long rack-and-shelving units run along either side of the shimmering space. Behind each one, vertically curved floor-to-ceiling panels of 1/2-inch-thick glass are fluorescently backlit to create glowing semi-tubular walls that set off Cavalli's bold and sexy clothes. Structural columns are dematerialized by mirrored panels, as is the wall opposite the dressing rooms. Their entrances, marked with an overhead row of pinpoint LEDs, are hung with white leather curtains. An amalgam of resin and powdered glass composes the silvery-white floors that are as smooth as an ice rink.
"This is a psychological space," says Rota. "Everywhere you go you see yourself." The reflection process begins in the street—the store's facade is mirrored—and intensifies inside. Nowhere is Rota's pronouncement more true than on the central staircase. Made of 1,600 square feet of mirror-polished steel, the conical structure acts like a giant kaleidoscope, mixing fractured views of the store's interiors, glimpsed reflections ' of fabulous faces, and random streaks of the stairway's crimson nylon carpet: It's Just Cavalli's very own deconstructed catwalk. Fashion-savvy, Rota and Pedretti know that for Milanese shoppers, being seen is as crucial as seeing what's in. The hyper-glamorous elevator, a padded white cell outfitted in faux leather and real mink, offers a more passive between-floors runway experience: Two video monitors continuously run recent Cavalli fashion shows and advertising campaigns.
There's a shift in mood in the basement café, where a 1,500-gallon tank full of marine life is built into one wall. "We created an element of surprise," explains Pedretti, "by mixing nature and tectonics." Backing a wall-length custom banquette upholstered in black cotton, the aquatic scene is not entirely about nature, though. The architects couldn't resist some trademark Cavalli flash. They took the serpent logo from the original Just Cavalli café in Parco Sempione, reproduced it with hundreds of colorful Swarovski crystals, and adhered it to the front of the aquarium.
Since it opened in January, Just Cavalli has brought a welcome note of levity to the oh-so-serious business of fashion in Milan. It invites customers to have a cappuccino and pastry, groove to music, and, in between, drop a few euros on clothes. "The shop is different from the others on Via della Spiga," says Pedretti. "But it still adheres to the Spiga chic."
Next in line is the French translation. Studio Rota & Partner's Cavalli enterprise on Paris's high-fashion thoroughfare, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, is slated to open in two years.
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