Recognising the UAE as one of its most important markets, Prada officially opened a boutique at Dubai's Mall of the Emirates on Wednesday. Designed by Roberto Baciocchi, it is one of the group's largest. Inside the 1,140-square-metre boutique, shoppers will be met with majestic marble, a succession of symmetrical rooms, luxurious carpeting and a mirror gallery. Separate womenswear and menswear sections house the latest and signature collections, ranging from ready-to-wear, footwear, bags, accessories and a "made-to-measure" area dedicated to bespoke clothing.
With revenues reaching €2.5 billion (Dh11.6m) and more than 388 directly operated stores spanning the globe, Prada is one of the most successful family-owned business-turned global empires, run by the power-house couple Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli.
During a rare sit-down with Stefano Cantino, the group communications and external relations director for Prada, we learn the launch is part of a much wider, international expansion plan.
Why did you feel it was the right time to open an independent Prada store, and why Mall of the Emirates?
It is the right time definitely because we have a big plan for retail expansion across the world and because we just finalised a joint venture with our partner in the region, Al Tayer, so it makes sense to open a store in Mall of the Emirates, which is considered "the" shopping destination in Dubai.
We also felt it's the right moment in our global picture. We have expansion plans for the whole region in existing and new markets and not just in Dubai.
We had a previous operation in the region and we closed down about three years ago. The idea was to clean up the market and to make a new step via our own retail operations.
Where in the region will you tap into next?
We plan to open 20 stores in the next two years of which 60 per cent will be Prada and 40 per cent Miu Miu.
We are looking at Kuwait as a next step, then Qatar and shortly Abu Dhabi, where we have a team searching for locations. They are investigating potential places but it will take at least two or three years and really depends on availability of location and complete opportunities. Then, possibly Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Describe the Mall of the Emirates boutique collection.
This is one of our largest stores in the world, especially on one floor. The shop is dedicated to men and women's collections. The selection of products is consistent with our presentation around the world in major cities such as Milan, Paris and London and we feel it's important to have the same type of merchandise, but in addition, in this store, we have a selection of new bags for the winter collection.
We tend to present the collection as a vision, while at the same time being specific - so the men's area has its own design, and there are other categories such as jewellery which need a specific environment in terms of visual display.
As soon as you enter, you feel the entire atmosphere. The window display is also the new display for the winter season.
What type of special-edition items have you introduced for this region?
The special limited editions for this region include a big collection of precious skins, styles and items dedicated to the market such as crocodile leather. We have limited-edition bags, one piece and two special bags made just for this store, which are made with crocodile leather. The idea is the exclusivity of that single item.
What pieces from this collection do you anticipate will sell especially well?
Our first comment from customers is that they really like the Saffiano leather, which is one of our most important and traditional materials that is part of our heritage and developed in many different shapes.
How do the buying habits of Emiratis and expatriates differ from Prada's consumers in other markets?
Our marketing team looks at specific habits so we develop products consistent with those habits and sometimes with the climate or moment of life. For example, we have a big part of the evening collection and dresses for special occasions, because we know it will be popular with women in this market.
What makes Prada unique?
Prada is one of the most innovative brands in the world in terms of design and for the fashion view, so we continue to follow this path of innovation, design and, of course, craftsmanship. The vision and partnership between Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli is definitely the key factor of this success.
Patrizio Bertelli is often credited as the man who encourages Prada to "take risks" - what future risks can we expect from Prada?
When you design a new collection, you have to take some risks. This is the challenge of our business.
How does art and architecture complement or help represent Prada?
It's really important starting from the fashion show space because design and culture are part of the Prada DNA. Architecture is part of the retail experience and also becomes part of the entire experience of the fashion show.
Will Prada be launching a diffusion line?
Honestly speaking, this is not part of our marketing strategy. We feel we have to protect our brands as much as possible – Prada and Miu Miu – so we don't have any interest in a diffusion line.
The Prada Menswear autumn/winter 2012 campaign sees the acting luminaries Gary Oldman, Garrett Hedlund, Jamie Bell and Willem Dafoe representing a new masculine elegance as a symbol of power, vanity, strength and grandness. Elegant and sophisticated suits as a reminder of past tailoring, with coats, waistcoats, jackets and high, important collars. In fabrics, what prevails are grey and black wool, pinstripe reviewed with irony, jacquards in different colours and Prada classics such as kid mohair. Colours range from black to all hues of grey, sophisticated browns to red, blue, violet and white.
Regal outfits with an ancient attitude. A virtual creature conveying a new idea of beauty. The main topic is fantasy. In footwear, unusual rubber overshoes in a contrasting colour. In bags, typically daytime shapes, and classic materials such as spazzolato.