CARMEN KOLLER
AND ELISA DE MARCHI
INTERVIEW
People

A SPACE OF ONE AND MANY FACES
  
One of the buzzwords of the twenty-first century is “user experience”, what a person feels when he or she uses a product or service. In the world of fashion and shopping, a new conscious and experiential purchasing philosophy has recently come to the fore, winning over consumers. Unlike the virtual and digital spaces of e-commerce, shops are becoming special places where people can meet and be aware. The new Caractère flagship store in Milan is therefore more like a “parlour” that welcomes women who are looking for something more than just garments when they go shopping.
Carmen Koller and Elisa De Marchi are the designers behind the new Caractère space. With experience in the hospitality and retail sectors respectively, they pooled their expertise to come up with a place that offers an experience and reflects the identity of a brand with a great history behind it. Caractère is one of the leading names on the Italian and international female fashion scene and its new “home” endorses this status. We spoke to Carmen and Elisa to find out more about this project and what motivated their choices.

  

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– Caractère has opened its new flagship store in Milan, in the beating heart of the Italian fashion district. Creativity, innovation and quality all in one place. Would it be right to talk of a “philosophy” when creating a space for fashion?
  
C. K. Yes, because we based the design of the flagship store on the brand’s new positioning. My experience in the hospitality sector has taught me that the right approach for designing a space in the fashion world is to study the brand, delve into its history. If you think about it, involving someone from a different background like me in a project like this can be an advantage, as it brings a new vision.
  
  
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– History, Design and Fashion: how do these concepts come together in the store?
  
C.K. Caractère belongs to the Miroglio Fashion Group, a prominent figure in the history of the Italian fashion industry. It was established at the end of the nineteenth century when Carlo Miroglio and his wife Angela, previously street traders selling fabric, opened their first shop in the centre of Milan. In 1947 their oldest child, Giuseppe, decided to start manufacturing fabrics made of silk and artificial fibres, installing their first looms. Silk was an important business in Alba and in the Veneto in particular. It’s a nice coincidence that Giuseppe Miroglio loved music and opera. I’m sure he would have been delighted to know that the store is now located opposite the Teatro alla Scala!
  

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– The new Caractère concept store has been designed for sophisticated, international women; this concept is reflected in the exclusive but essential fittings. What was your inspiration when you created this space?
  
C.K. The brand and its history. The rest followed. The Miroglio Group’s history is linked to a thread. I expressed this concept, the evolution of this thread into fashion.
  
– You are a well-travelled professional, used to working in different countries and cultures. How important was your professional experience in the creation of this store which merges international and Italian influences?
  
C.K. Caractère is an international company. But, most important of all, it’s an Italian company. The value of Italian products and know-how was key when designing the store. Even when choosing the materials, like the marble which Italy is famous for the world over. The materials used on the walls represent Italian excellence, the expertise of our master craftsmen.
  
– The store is an all-female project. Thought up by women for women. What was it like to be part of a project that expresses and celebrates femininity?
  
E.D. I already knew Carmen. I must say she indulged and helped me combine her experience in the hospitality industry with my retail background. Femininity was central to the project at all times. As women, we are familiar with the pleasure of shopping and we were given the chance to use this knowledge on a project whose objective was precisely that. The same is true for the “home” dimension we gave the store, we decided to add this mood to make the fashion experience even more engaging and personal.
  
– Which aspect of the new Caractère space best conveys the brand’s Italian identity?
  
E.D. The sheer size of the shop helped us convey this concept, thanks to the recurring arch shape, for example. We enhanced it, giving it a more material feel. As well as the simple furnishings which double up as display units and were designed to focus attention on the garments on display.
  
– What three adjectives would you use to define the Caractère flagship store?
  
C.K. Authentic, eclectic and timeless.