It's the street where everyone wants to be, and there's just not enough room, and so brands that want to be a part of it often have to opt for nearby locations. Boutiques offer a full immersion into the brand experience, and so it's always interesting to take a look and see how the world of retail is evolving with the times.
Some boutiques become tourist attractions in themselves. An example is Stuart Weitzman (main image), on Via Sant'Andrea 10 (very close to Via Montenapoleone), which opened on 12 September 2013 and attracts thousands of architecture and design enthusiasts who come to see Zaha Hadid's playful, curving forms that magically fold to create display units, seating and curving walls. The free-standing elements are made in fibreglass dipped in rose gold, a technique similar to that used in boat construction, while walls and ceiling are in glass-reinforced concrete.
The impressive Brian&Barry Building in Piazza San Babila (the exact address is Via Durini 28). The building offers 12 floors of fashion, beauty, watches, jewellery, home, food and wine, and it is open every day, from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. It is something of a monument in itself, in a building designed in the 1950s by Giovanni Muzio, and inside, it is pleasant and spacious, with structures in steel, glass and concrete, and plate glass lifts that give you a glimpse of the floors as you sail up to the top floor. Here, Asola restaurant has a terrace where you can enjoy an aperitif with great views over the city. Eataly has two floors of space further down, with food products and wines, and the Hamburgheria for burgers with locally-sourced meat. The ground floor is refreshingly different when compared to other department stores, with the latest high-tech gadgets, and superb coffee and pastries from Luca Montersino (also part of Eataly).
On Via Montenapoleone itself, there are changes at number 12, where Burberry have expanded and restructured their space, which now includes men's and children's collections. It is a masterpiece of multimedia, with fashion shows on a multiscreen as soon as you enter, and music by the groups from Burberry Acoustic, selected by Christopher Bailey. The interiors feature fumé glass, steel and dark wood, with grey marble floors and thick grey rugs. The store will include cosmetics on the third floor, watches, the tailoring service, and the collect-in-store project, which makes it possible to order a product on-line (or at the store) and pick it up after one or two days.
On Via del Gesù, close to Via Montenapoleone, Brioni opened its new flagship store in June 2014. On three floors, it is replete in plate glass, bronze, dark ribbed wood panelling, marble and travertine. It provides a warm palette of beiges and browns against which the superbly-tailored Brioni products are displayed to perfection. On the ground floor, accessories; on the first floor, leisurewear, with denim, sneakers and sports jackets, and the 'sartorial' atelier. On the second floor, formalwear and the Su Misura (made-to-measure) service, with six full-time tailors who can make a Su Misura outfit or modify a pret-à-porter garment. Though the store looks and feels traditional, Brioni are looking into the future with the 'Mirror' digital system. When complete in 2017, a client will be able to look at himself in the virtual mirror, and see what he looks like in the huge range of fabrics, colours and patterns available for each garment.
Philipp Plein opened his second flagship store at number 23, Via Montenapoleone, in June 2014, joining the existing store in Via della Spiga. It features the brand's sparkling visual design, with a new version of the iconic skull, entirely black and covered with crystal, and the hexagon of the brand's logo visible in the display cabinets, and on walls and ceiling. Enormous blocks of marble, with steel and glass, offer an interesting shopping experience.
And by the time you see this, there will be more... for example, Omega will be opening at number 9 of Via Montenapoleone. The street remains a magnet for brands and its clients. No surprise that it is the most expensive street in Italy, and the sixth most expensive in the world.