Monday, September 3, 2018 Launches Its New Townhouse In Collaboration With Prada

Just on the corner of Mount Street, directly facing The Connaught and right round the corner from The Ritz, is 5 Carlos Place: a 7,000 square foot townhouse that now plays host to’s new physical iteration. Having undergone some pretty major refurbishment spanning everything from freshly-installed terracotta flooring to meticulously-restored fireplaces, the six-storey Georgian building finally opens on September 4 with a large-scale Prada takeover. Comprising a 110-piece capsule collaboration and a custom-designed pinball machine alike, it promises to set a new standard for curated consumer experiences, and one which speaks to the very heart of the brand. has long been a retail trendsetter: after all, its first boutique, situated in the leafy suburb of Wimbledon, was Prada’s first UK stockist. Back then, its shop staff were always remarkably open to my teenage self flicking through the rails, happy to offer a cup of tea and a changing room in spite of my clear lack of purchasing power, and long before a glass of champagne was de rigueur in a designer store. 31 years down the line and they are upscaling that sensibility – hoping that Gen Z shoppers will pop into Mayfair and get some stickers from their Prada vending machine, take some selfies in front of the banana-print wallpaper and get a coffee from a Marchesi café transplant – while making some pretty impressive margins to boot (there might be novelty merch on offer, but there are crocodile skin handbags for The Connaught’s residents, too).

Besides rail upon rail of the aforementioned collaboration (“we don’t like the term "exclusive" anymore,” says Chief Brand Officer Jess Christie), which will be the focus of the fortnight before Marine Serre and young designer initiative The Innovators move in for London Fashion Week, there are four enormous personal shopping suites artfully decked out in tonal palettes and designed for those set to shop up a storm.

There are fitting rooms for customers to try on requests made through their 90-minute delivery service (select your picks in the office and then nip down a few hours later to flick through the rails and see if they fit), a tropical garden for those who need a breath of fresh air after making their purchases, and a café space that will play host to a rotating calendar of chefs (first: the renowned, Prada-owned Marchesi, all pastel-hued sugared almonds and Milanese patisserie; later, the likes of Paris’ wellness-centred hipster hangout, Maisie Café). In the evenings, the venue will play host to a series of talks, workshops and supper clubs that will be turned into podcasts or livestreams and shared globally through their new broadcasting hub.

It is, essentially, the embodiment of modern retail: one that targets consumer lifestyles as well as consumers' wallets, understanding that a holistic experience does wonders for bottom lines. “We’ve got these great relationships that we’ve developed with designers through our capsule collections,” explains Christie. “But now we can add another creative element to it all: whether it’s Grace Wales Bonner who wants French Caribbean music and food, or Hillier Bartley holding a pub quiz… it’s like looking inside people’s heads, peeping into their worlds.” Buying Director Natalie Kingham concurs. “It’s about creating a community. We really enjoyed the travelling residencies that we did,” she says, referring to the anniversary series of events staged last year, with designers including Erdem and Isabel Marant, in LA, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. “We wanted to make a permanent living space where we can always do those sorts of things.” Any member of the press who’s ever attended a dinner will tell you they’re the friendliest sort of fashion occasion; now, they’re opening those doors to anyone who signs up in time on their site. As Christie says, exclusivity has fallen out of fashion. Now it’s about presenting limited-edition pieces and experiences within a thoroughly welcoming framework, and building steadfast loyalty within the ever-competitive digital marketplace.

But, back to the Prada collaboration. An evolution of the autumn/winter 2018 collection, it takes the runway as the starting point and then has re-structured or re-coloured favourite pieces: those iconic flame-heeled shoes, for example, now come in gold; tweeds appear in new variants; nylon dresses are printed with archival neons. Then, Linea Rossa is launching upstairs in the shopping suites: this is the only place it can be found until it launches in Prada stores later this month. British set designer Robert Storey has designed everything from the rails to the immersive video installations, and Miuccia Prada quotes and archive runway footage flash up on big screens.

It’s a complete package and it makes sense: Prada is a big seller for “We can look at what’s been performing, what’s done well, and develop from there,” Kingham explains – data capture has long been a focal point, with the company being diligent in determining its customers’ proclivities from day dot. “There are a lot of different customers who appreciate Prada; those who go for classic shapes and beautiful tea dresses or top-handle bags, and then those who really appreciate the modernity, the fashion pieces. We’ve gone high/low: we’ve got the trainers and the nylon, but also the croc… and [Miuccia Prada] does that mix really, really well.”

“That’s when you know a collection is going to work: when it’s appealing to the 21-year-old as well as the 45-year-old,” continues Jess Christie. Clearly, that’s when a retailer works, too – and if a whistle-stop tour around Carlos Place is anything to go by, it is certainly set for success.

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