Online shoppers have the advantage of relaxing with a coffee or a glass of wine – with or without friends – when they are looking to buy shoes, boots or sandals, but they are really missing out if they live somewhere near a Stuart Weitzman outlet and do not take the time to succumb to the shopping experience first-hand. Designer Stuart Weitzman has boutiques all over the world from New York to Milan, from Paris to Beijing. The range of styles and attention to detail show very clearly that the fashion footwear he produces, using unexpected materials and in forms and constructions that push the boundaries of traditional footwear, reveals the touch of a master shoemaker. Not surprising then that he chose to commission renowned architect Zaha Hadid to design an innovative retail concept for his six-window flagship store on the iconic Via Sant’ Andrea in Milan, Italy, one of the world’s premiere shopping destinations. When the almost 300 square metre boutique was opened the owner hosted the event with none less than the iconic Kate Moss.
The concept developed by Zaha Hadid reinforces Stuart Weitzman’s vision and commitment to breaking new ground. The flagship store in Milan not only demonstrates that Weitzman himself is at the forefront of style and design; his fashion store can now be added to the list of Zaha Hadid projects that people flock to see and experience in different parts of the world: the MAXXI: National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, Italy and the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati and the Guangzhou Opera House in China are all recognised as architecture that transforms our idea of the future, involving bold, visionary forms coupled with spatial sensibility.
The Milan flagship store is fluid and playful. A dialogue of geometry and materiality creates an enchanting rhythm of folds and recesses, which are further shaped by functional and ergonomic considerations. Modular display units showcase shoes and provide seating, and the seamless integration of diverse forms throughout the space invites our curiosity. The juxtaposition of these distinct design elements outlines the different areas within the store. Experimentation with materials and construction technologies further define the unique space. The curved modular seating and freestanding display elements are made of fibreglass dipped in rose gold – a technique similar to that used in boat manufacture. The walls and ceiling in the store feature glassreinforced concrete, their solidity balanced against the delicate precision of the complex curved units that incorporate areas for display.
The collaboration with Zaha Hadid Architects is a major component of the strategic global retail expansion of the Stuart Weitzman brand within the luxury sector. The Milan flagship boutique is the 100th Stuart Weitzman global retail store. In the meantime, international growth has continued to Mainland China, Korea, Taiwan, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, India and the Philippines.
Entering this shoe boutique is like immersing yourself in shoes. The shapes, the colours, the curves, the materials all speak show language. The space invites you to float around until you glide by the footwear that begs to be bought. As Marilyn Monroe once said: "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." In Stuart Weitzman’s case, you might say – "keep your head, heels and standards high".
Architecture and design: Zaha Hadid