Feb 10, 2013


Forgive me as the inner paparazzi in me has been itching to sneakily capture images of boutiques that we visited whilst in Milan and Paris, where expectedly such photography is not allowed. But such is my commitment to blogging and exclusive coverage that I risked myself from getting thrown out by brawny security guards with these improperly-snapped images. First I'll start with the latest addition to the concept store scene in Milan - Excelsior.

From a brief research the project is heralded under Gruppo Coin, an Italian department store company, along with the real estate developer Beni Stabili, who spent more than $40 million on its development and renovation. However ironically the project seems unwelcome by the Milanese. With Excelsior's humongous video display and nightclub lights, it's easy to understand why such a staid resistance. As its rival La Rinascente (Milan's older, famous luxury department store just a few blocks away from Excelsior) looks more conservative and  has a fairly old-school way to operate, Excelsior stand out in contrast in terms of the brash external screen displays, the seemingly unorganized stalls and glass cases, and the way the designer items are jumbled together (luxury intermix with mid-range to give that sense of energy) - I guess it's only fair to say it is such an assault to a conservative Milanese's taste.

To be honest we accidentally stumbled into the former movie theatre building in the midst of looking for another high-street shop to crash into around the Duomo area. As it was drizzling that night thankfully we managed to find shelter (and ogle at the beautiful objects they have) in the store, located at Galleria del Corso, just off the arcades of Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II.

The chaotic impression lent by multiple video screens on its exterior windows is reflected inside, where accessories and fashion are spread out over five floors. Each floor is connected to the next by an automated ramp, not escalators as a normal department store would have. Apart from fashion the store also stocks raw and prepared food from the supermarket and the Eat's dining space at the basement (a take-away, bistro and restaurant to suit every one's taste).

“The most important thing at the moment is to have a real mix on the inside of all happy things, not just expensive things,” said Antonia Giacinti, who is acting as its artistic director. 

Ms. Giacinti is well known in Milan for her independent boutiques, called Antonia, which carry many of the same high-end designers. For Excelsior, she focused on a broader range, including some lower-priced lines, to make the store more approachable.

image via Dave Yoder for The New York Times

The ground floor was packed with young people (including Milan Men's Fashion Week attendees) milling among displays of small accessories and publications both high- and low-end, including books from Taschen, Bang & Olufsen mini stereos and Pantone colourful mugs, whilst a small crowd waited outside a separate display for Tiffany & Company jewelry. Those of you who cannot get enough of LadurĂ©e macaroon action in Paris can have it here on the ground floor, all in its pastel-coloured street cart glory. For a second the floor reminds me very much of Colette in Paris. An elevator in the back of the store was stuck on a mezzanine level, where beauty products are stored. Subsequent floors house a mix of contemporary labels (Helmut Lang, Theory, Rag & Bone, Alice & Olivia and Gryphon), men’s wear (Maison Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Marni, Marc Jacobs, Maison Kitsune, Comme des Garcons, Kenzo - some of the half-priced t-shirts were snapped by lucky Arman),  and, at the very top, in what might have once been the theater’s projection booth, accessories (Louboutin, Blahnik, Choo, Zanotti). If the fact that Milanese do not really want to associate with this intrusive shopping institution is true, I'll be more than happy to be a regular customer in Excelsior, provided that I have an extra wad of cash lying around somewhere in the depths of my suitcase...

images via blog.stylesight.com

First few images and words by Hafidzudin Zainal 

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