Five Unique Boutiques

Wickedly clever architects and designers have brought in a new trend among shops: the quirkier, the better. In these five unique stores, shopping is not just a buying activity, but a journey to a fascinating world where chandeliers sit on the floor, rooms resemble an underworld kingdom, and shoppers come and go aboard helicopters. Welcome to a shopping experience like no other.

Viktor & Rolf, Milan. The dynamic pair of Dutch designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren live to twist the classic, and they were not content merely doing it for their runway shows. Their store in Milan, Italy literally leaves shoppers head over heels with its celebrated, upside-down design. Chandeliers sprout from the floor; inverted arcs are used as cushions and fluffed with little pillows; and upturned chairs hang from the oak parquet ceiling. No, you’re not in some bizarre wonderland; you’re just in Viktor & Rolf’s world, “where nothing is what it seems to be.” Amidst the giddy dreamlike spectacle, expect to rub shopping shoulders with the likes of Cate Blanchet and Gwen Stefani, who are always on the prowl for edgy fashion.

Daslu, Sao Paulo. Dropping by this upscale mall on foot is a big mistake. “A store the size of the world’s desires,” Daslu in Sao Paulo, Brazil takes in the country’s mega-rich via its helipad, but shoppers aboard cars and taxis are also welcome. Luxury here is not only defined by posh brands such as Prada and Dior; uniformed staff also guide shoppers and serve complimentary espresso shots to make them feel like royalty. Part of the 17,000-square-metre-store is a high-tech department, dominated only by the biggest brands: from Bang & Olufsen audio systems to Jaguar convertibles. Argentine shoppers fly in chartered planes in this shopping mecca, and fashion bigwigs such as Gabbana and Valentino frequent the area.

Loveless, Tokyo. Loveless, a luxury clothing store in Tokyo, Japan, presents shoppers with two choices: the “good” or the “evil.” But that doesn’t mean the number of sins you’ve committed are evaluated here. What’s being assessed, rather, is your fashion sense. Shoppers who prefer the “brights” should venture to the ground and upper floors, which are swathed in pristine white and accentuated with colourful pieces, including pendulous glass fruits. Those who wish to join the dark side can take the ominous turn to the catacomb-like basement with dark walls, where the stairwell transforms into a tunnel. Punks revel on this side of the store with funky merchandise displayed on tables with coffer-like risers.

Comme des Garcons, New York. Shoppers are in for some avant-garde fashion in this spaceship-looking boutique. The store is concealed in a street lined with art galleries, but those curious enough to follow the aluminium walls are sucked into a white tunnel that snakes inward to an egg-shaped glass door. Red lights line up the futuristic walkway, creating the impression that you’re about to board a space craft. But behind the hefty door, instead of aliens, eccentric and conceptual fashion awaits. Rei Kawakubo and the design firm Future Systems pioneered the store’s exceptional architecture, which draws in local gallery directors and the brand’s devotees from around the globe.

Louis Vuitton, Paris. Louis Vuitton’s especially famous leather goods only deserve the best and grandest home, which is exactly what its Paris store is. Standing in the middle of Paris’ fashionable Champs Elysées, this store features outstanding design fit for the rich and famous. There’s a foyer with elegant floor-to-ceiling metal drapes; crystal-studded metal partitions; a four-storey, tunnel-like escalator with stunning fibre-optic works; and a sound- and stimuli-proof, black velvet express elevator. Nothing else defines chic better than this.

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