It’s no stretch to call 10 Corso Como’s original branch the mother of all concept stores. Launched in 1990 in an old garage in Milan (from whose address the brand takes its name), the space mushroomed from a small art gallery into what the Wall Street Journal has anointed ‘a fashion institution’ and now hosts a bookshop, fashion store, café and restaurant together with what must be the world’s weeniest boutique hotel, the aptly-named 3 Rooms. Minus the hotel, the mix of art, fashion, design, music and cuisine rolled into one seamlessly stylish experience has proved a winning formula across Asia.
The brains behind the operation is Carla Sozzani, a longtime fashion editor of various glossies including the Italian editions of Elle and Vogue (the latter is still run by her younger sister Franca) turned gallerist, publisher and general tastemaker. The influence of her former career is obvious in the store’s almost hyper-curated quality: walking through the door is meant to feel like wandering into the pages of a magazine. And that bulging contacts book must have come in handy securing high-profile collaborations with the likes of Comme des Garçons, Swarovski, Paul Smith and Charles Philip.
As tempting as the goods are, it aims to be more than a temple to consumerism: every branch houses Sozzani’s eponymous gallery, which regularly shows rare pieces from luminaries of the art and photography world including David Bailey and Annie Leibovitz, while Zandra Rhodes is just one of the many designers who have staged exhibitions.
As with Corso Como’s other branches the interiors of the 2,500sqm, four storey space, come courtesy of American graphic artist Kris Ruhs, whose work you might recognise from the Reel shopping mall’s Rat Tar Art Bar. His trippy, monochrome swirls, spirals and curves are set to dominate everything from the walls and furniture to the custom-created paintings and sculptures. Light is a major factor in his work, hence the floor-to-ceiling windows and glass-walled lifts.
The ground floor holds an eclectic mix of books, home design, accessories and beauty and is likely to prove the place for gift-hunting, whether it’s coffee-table-porn tomes or the perfect Bougies scented candle. There’s a raft of artisanal interiors labels drawn mainly from continental Europe, including Eclectic by Tom Dixon (London), Ligne Blanche (Paris) and centuries-old Milanese atelier Fornasetti.
You’ll also find the store’s own-brand range, which includes creative collaborations: totes, laptop cases, stationery and tableware all bearing Ruhs’ signature prints. Don’t miss the small but expertly-curated beauty section, featuring the likes of Diptyqe, Atelier Cologne and Mad et Len.
A glass lift sweeps you up to the second floor, devoted to menswear and accessories. Inside there is a su misura (bespoke) tailoring corner as well as an events space showcasing collaborations with homegrown creatives, plus frequent pop-ups.
Female fashionistas should head to the floor above for a selection of threads running the gamut from avant-garde labels such as Alaia to no-surprise international brands including Fendi, Chloe and Jil Sander. If last year’s collection for H&M whetted your appetite for Maison Martin Margiela’s surrealist designs then check out their current wares, while for a more classic look Carven do a nice line in buttoned-down (but still playful) Parisian chic. The selection will change every month and there’s no sweaty changing room scrum with customers encouraged to ‘sit down and enjoy the view’ in line with the store’s ‘slow shopping’ philosophy.We hope that also means no pushy assistants bugging you.
Aside from the shopping you can refuel at the ground-floor pasticceria, a casual terrace café serving coffee and Italian pastries, or for a higher-end bite try the fourth floor restaurant and cocktail lounge which specialises in Italian seafood, meat and pasta staples. The store is also paying homage to its roots with a dedicated gallery whose opening show, 23 Years of Galleria Carla Sozzani is a slightly self-indulgent but nonetheless interesting retrospective of 10 Corso Como’s exhibitions from the past two decades.
The Italian export’s boutique feel should prove a big draw for those seeking a more intimate shopping experience. With an emphasis on art, design and food as well as shopping, it’s likely to attract more of a creative crowd.