Milan – City of Design and the Wonder of Windows

Milan is a city where design really matters—even in the smallest elements.  This reality was brought home to us a few weeks ago as we visited Milan to attend meetings with our Ebeltoft Group partners from around the world.  Where many places have opted for lack of design in the name of simplification, the Milanese have remained true to their roots as some of the best designers in the world.

Retail was our focus while in Milan, so we noticed the stores first.  When was the last time you stopped to look at a jaw-dropping window? Probably not recently. Here we were awestruck by the renaissance of shopper-stopper windows. Window dressing, which many retailers have dumbed down in North America, is seen as an opportunity to grab the attention of the passersby. 

For many stores, real estate asset or occupancy costs are second highest—after wages. So if you are paying “though the nose,” then why not minimize this cost by maximizing the impact of the stores’ hyper-expensive real estate. And it goes beyond that. Market research conducted by J.C. Williams Group a few years ago found that browsing and looking at windows was a top source of pre-buying information for males; this is where men were actually getting buying ideas.

To make our point, here are some pictures from the footwear category—a tough one to do much with because they are small. Miu Miu, Tods, and Armani all took slightly different takes on how to make shoes exciting.

Miu Miu
Giorgio Armani

Nevertheless, the point is: don’t neglect the obvious. Maximize high rents with dramatic windows that both sell the brand as well as sell the products. They key is creativity, which doesn’t have to be expensive.

But, design didn’t stop there.  It can be found in the lobby of a hotel.

Palazzo Matteotti

Or design can be found in the plantings down a city street that greens a solidly urban context.

Even new buildings have the design flourishes that make Milan so exciting.

Not to be outdone, Apple has created the ultimate entrance to their store—all in the Milanese fashion.

We will have more about the stores of Milan in the next blog.


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