The windows and soaring new entryway are the first visible sign of KaDeWe’s complete renovation by architect Rem Koolhaas, which got underway six months ago. The 646,080-square-foot department store will be fully redesigned as part of the KaDeWe Premium department store group’s three-store transformation program under new majority owner La Rinascente and its strategic partner, the Central Group.
The renovation of Hamburg’s Alsterhaus is under the direction of German architectural office Kleihues+Kleihues, while John Pawson is revamping Munich’s Oberpollinger. The three renovations are expected to take six to eight years to complete at a cost of 300 to 400 million euros, or about $327 million to $437 million at current exchange.
In contrast to the design of KaDeWe’s interior makeover and bold, almost 46-foot high entrance, the store’s 10 arched front windows actually represent a return to the emporium’s original 1907 format. They measure 13.45 feet in height, and are 13.8 feet wide.
But to draw the eye to the Bulgari “Serpenti” jewelry and accessories on display, and to create a more intimate space, the Roman luxury house blacked out part of the windows in a frame that also reflects the arches in the Bulgari Via Condotti flagship recently renovated by Peter Marino.
“It’s not by chance that we’re unveiling our new windows with Bulgari, a brand that stands for quality and design worldwide,” remarked KaDeWe Premium Group chief executive officer André Maeder. In response, Bulgari’s managing director for Germany and Austria Sandra Mohsni told guests, who included brand ambassador Princess Marie-Louise zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleberg, “We are very happy and proud to be the first brand that could occupy the new windows…Both our houses have a unique feel for luxury that’s a perfect combination and balance between tradition and innovation.”
Bulgari has long been a featured luxury brand with its own shop in KaDeWe and also operates a store on Kurfürstendamm. “Germany is getting more and more important,” Mohsni said. “We see that expansion in new territories like Asia and South America are good, but the base has to be stable. ‘Old lady Europe’ may be more difficult,” she commented, “but in the end, the future is here.”
But if Bulgari, like other luxury houses, has the economically solid German market in their focus, luxury is not necessarily an easy sell here, she said. “Luxury is quite new to Germans, and brands have an educational role to explain why certain things have a certain price. This is something Germans know and understand when it comes to cars, but in other areas, the question is always, ‘Why does this cost so much?'”
She added Germans appear to be “much more function-oriented and not prone to so much dreaming about things. The relation to luxury here is a little schizophrenic. People want their friends to instantly recognize what things cost, but it’s not something their cleaning ladies should know. In France and Italy, you can show, openly. However, that means there’s potential for development here, which makes Germany much more interesting.”
As for KaDeWe, luxury is very much on the program as the store continues to expand its high-end offerings. The ground floor atrium, which will go through a total revamp next year, already makes a more luxury impression with its spacious and open display of luxury accessories brands.
“Before you always had to walk around or through various installations, but now you finally enter and immediately get the feeling you’re in a premium, luxury store,” Maeder declared.
The next phase of the store’s redesign will be unveiled in mid-November, with a new women’s designer fashion department, as well as a 21,500-square-foot men’s shoe department. “It’s the largest of its kind in Europe and every year over the next years, we’ll be presenting new areas and departments,” he said.