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A new era for stores: Retail trends from Milan Design Week

Retail stores will no longer have merchandise in full view on hanging rails or on shelves, but concept stores will aim to offer the best possible shopping experience with the use of technological support and home delivery in order to realise ever greater integration between online and offline sales. These are the retail trends which emerged during the Milan Design Week, which took place in the Italian fashion capital from 3rd to 9th April.

The concept store selects stimuli and products from other sectors, as the godfather of denim, Adriano Goldschmied, explained to FashionUnited a few weeks ago: “I’m working on a small store concept where customers can find top products. I don’t believe in the total look, as doing everything well is mission impossible. This is why I decided to solely concentrate on denim since the end of the 1980’s.”

A new era for stores: Retail trends from Milan Design Week

Physical shops and online showcases are now increasingly integrated

The seminar organised by Elle Decor and Altagamma, the association which brings together the luxury goods elite, highlighted that living trends and retail distribution are merging, with the showroom becoming the ‘theatre’, where the biography of the products on display are recounted, whilst the digital elements expand, support and amaze the customer.

Francesco Morace, Chairman of Future Concept Lab, proposed a new consumption scenario, based on the extension of the comfort concept, allowing the consumer to feel at ease, to be recognised and feel gratified. From the pure and simple perception of individual comfort, we move onto a full quality of life experience. In essence, we are a long way from the time when acquiring selling spaces to witness a boost in revenues was sufficient. "The era of easy growth created by new spaces and price increases is over. Shops are no longer a display of dimensions and materials, but a way for brands to express and confirm their own values and uniqueness,” according to the key trend emerging from Fondazione Altagamma’s Retail evolution study conducted by Luca Solca from Exane Paribas.

A new era for stores: Retail trends from Milan Design Week

According to Remo Ruffini, Chairman of Moncler, we are moving towards a differentiated retail strategy by country, with a different purchasing experience in every city. “The purchasing process is multichannel, fast and digitally friendly,” which means we must take the new generations born with a smartphone in their hands into account. For instance, Julipet, an underwear/lingerie brand utilised this approach by launching its first store in the fashion quarter during the Milan Design Week. “We decided to consider Julipet as a start-up and that even the cash desk in the store would revolve around e-commerce. There’s a high degree of integration between online and offline, for us, sales take place through a single channel which merges web and offline,” explains Clemente Germanetti, the brand’s Manager.

The store features a floor covered by vicuna rugs, eco-leathers on the walls, cream shelves and bronze wall panelling finished off with “pink gold” displays and a movable counter which also serves as a cash desk. All of this is illuminated by a selection of LED lights. The external showcase is a captivating display of lights, “opens” the space within the store and invites customers to enter, with a big video wall opposite the entrance becoming the focus point, telling the world all about Julipet, alongside an installation of a man in pyjamas by the artist Nando Cripps.

If digital is indeed an essential element for the physical store, references to the world of art and to the inspiration which drives sculptors, photographers and painters, is a trend at sales points. Frankie Morello hosted an exclusive installation during the Salone del mobile furniture trade fair, in collaboration with LondonArt, the UK's largest online gallery of contemporary art, to showcase its “rebirth” collection within its flagship store in Corso Venezia.

A new era for stores: Retail trends from Milan Design Week

Brooks Brothers resurrected the display cases in their own Flatiron store, a 1937 square foot space spanning over two floors in the heart of the Milan Brera district, with new design objects, created by reusing shapes and materials deployed in the installations. This is the first time the Circular Design concept has been applied in the world of retail and luxury goods, with designer Andrea Favoni, Art Director at Marangoni Design and author of this first edition of Circular Design, looking to complement the Brooks Brothers collection with a double helix, using linen as an accessory element on the furnishings. Designer Paola Lenti executed exclusive versions of several products in the collection at the La Tenda store in Via Solferino, combined with vintage pieces in a creative game of contamination, inspired by the colours of the island of Cuba, burnt by time but still brilliant. Moving from the hottest yellow to the deepest red, from the nuances of turquoise which shift from green to blue, the designer has recreated a sunlit environment which is serene, free and full of life.

A new era for stores: Retail trends from Milan Design Week

Aspesi marries arte povera

Arte povera, the contemporary art movement which literally means ‘poor art’, is the protagonist of Aspesi’s store, a label recently acquired by Italian private equity firm Armònia sgr, which decided to display a single work in its showcase in via Montenapoleone by one of the leading exponents of this movement, Mario Merz. Arte povera was born in Italy during the second half of the 1960’s in an open polemic with traditional art, whose techniques and media it rejected in order to specifically draw on ‘poor’ materials, such as earth, wood, iron, rags, plastic and industrial scraps, with the intention of evoking the original structures of the language of contemporary society after having corroded its habits and semantic conformisms. “I am very happy to be able to offer a broad and heterogeneous off-salon audience the opportunity to admire this work. Alberto Aspesi has always appreciated and been involved in the art world, with a distinct preference for arte povera, well represented here by Merz’ work. The iconic concept of essentiality is indeed an element it has in common with the brand’s collection style,” said Fabio Gnocchi, Managing Director of Aspesi.

In conjunction with the Salone del mobile of Milan, Massimo Dutti entrusted the decoration of its flagship store in Corso Vittorio Emanuele to one of the best artists, Rossana Orlandi. Inditex invited the Milanese artist, who won the latest edition of the magazine Ad’s prize, to embellish the showcases of its Milan store with works by artists derived from its gallery. The specific artistic project which the gallery owner organised for the showcase of the store included a selection of iconic pieces, such as Damiano Spelta and Nika Zupanc’s armchairs and a large-scale graphic portrait of Rossana Orlandi. As a further tribute to Orlandi, there was no shortage of dummies of the iconic spectacles, which identify the owner of the gallery.

Originally published by Isabella Naef for FashionUnited Italy

Foto: Julipet press office, FashionUnited, Massimo Dutti press office, Frankie Morello press office, Brooks Brothers press office