LONDON — It takes a certain kind of courage to roar around a Formula One racetrack at 180 miles an hour, and a whole different kind to shift gears, say goodbye to the past and steer into new territory.
Two years ago Ferrari’s bosses mustered their courage, buckled up and said “sì” to a journey with Sybarite, the hot London architecture and design firm that had proposed a radical re-think of the brand’s retail concept.
Sybarite has since removed the Ferrari name from the new store’s signage, kept the famous prancing horse logo, put the focus on Italian design and dreamed up immersive experiences geared toward families and multiple generations of Ferrari lovers.
The new look is pared back, sophisticated and made in Italy — right down to the terracotta that’s been hauled out of the ground near Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters in Emilia-Romagna.
Inside and outside, the Sybarite architects have not only paid homage to the Ferrari’s famous curves, but also to the greats of early and mid-20th-century Italian design, figures including Giò Ponti and Giancarlo Piretti, and brands such as Poltrona Frau, Flos and Cassina.
In doing so Sybarite transported Ferrari into new territory, and brought it right back home to Italy.
“Ferrari’s retail was nowhere near the level of their cars, or their brand,” said Simon Mitchell, cofounder of Sybarite, who worked on the project with Adrian Condina, associate director. “They knew they needed to elevate the brand, take it to the next level. It’s been a hugely brave step for them.”
Mitchell said the idea was to pare back the stores and emphasize Ferrari’s Italian design heritage, but also to capture a futuristic spirit and be inclusive of people whether they be five years old or 70.
This store will not only have immersive, simulator experiences, but also carry fashion and accessories by the new creative director Rocco Iannone, whose debut show will take place in Maranello this weekend.
It will also offer merchandise from Ferrari’s myriad collaborators, which range from Lego to Ray-Ban, Tod’s and Puma. A 24-hour vending machine will be selling small-scale model cars which are popular among collectors.
“We want families in there,” said Mitchell, adding that he also wants visitors, no matter how old they are, to understand and appreciate what Ferrari is about, and to enjoy themselves in the stores.
“Retail needs to work so much harder nowadays. Customers are so much more well-informed, and they want more of an experience, a reason to go to physical stores. Retail is theater, and these stores have to be embassies to the brands,” Mitchell said.
Sybarite is currently working on three retail openings: A 6,458-square-feet store in Maranello, across the street from Ferrari’s HQ, will open on Tuesday, June 15, followed by a larger unit in Milan in September. The Milan store, in the galleria Vittorio Emanuele near La Rinascente, will span 16,145 square feet, while the third will open in Miami at the Aventura Mall. That store, which opens in October, will measure 2,906 square feet and be a particularly significant for the brand as 40 percent of Ferrari’s car sales are in the U.S.
More new-generation shops will follow in the coming months.
Anyone who recalls the old Ferrari store format, with its dark, hard-edged interiors, is in for some surprises. There’s no Ferrari sign on the colonnaded terracotta facade. The branding is minimal, and the word Ferrari is hard to find anywhere in the store.
“The more we stripped back, the more powerful the concept became,” said Mitchell.
The famous leaping horse logo greets visitors, while inside, the store features walls of delicately curving red glass, poured cement floors and clay bricks.
Sybarite has spun materials found inside a Ferrari into the store including brushed aluminum, Alcantara luxury suede and Poltrona Frau ribbed and stitched leather.
Rounded, cave-like areas that recall the shape of the Pantheon in Rome house immersive driving experiences — a must for Mitchell, who’s been an F1 lover since he was a little boy.
Condina said the aim was to make the interiors sensual and tactile and add “a softness and a calmness” that had been missing in previous Ferrari formats.
“The tables are made of acrylic, and look like they are floating in the space,” Condina said, adding that they recall the designs of Ponti and Piretti in order to “keep that iconic Italian look.”
A series of slim wooden “fins” have been made to create different, flexible spaces for Iannone’s collections and capsules to be displayed, while the lighting has been sourced from Flos, the Italian lighting brand based in South Tyrol.
Instead of plunking a Ferrari in the middle of the new store, Sybarite thought more about about the brand and its history, and decided to create an anamorphic installation.
From the front, the installation looks like bits of a black jigsaw puzzle hanging from a series of wires, while from the sides the prancing horse emerges in all its splendor, looking to the future.