Q&A: Carla Sozzani Brings Concept Store 10 Corso Como to Shanghai

Q&A: Carla Sozzani Brings Concept Store 10 Corso Como to Shanghai
Carla Sozzani in her office at 10 Corso Como.
(François Halar)

Concept stores may be common today, but 10 Corso Como was way ahead of the pack 22 years ago, blending art, design, cuisine and culture into one holistic retail vision. A former fashion editor for magazines such as Italian Elle and Vogue, founder Carla Sozzani’s trendsetting boutique-gallery-café-restaurant-cum-hotel has spread its wings to Tokyo and Seoul, and will reach Shanghai this autumn in a 2,500sqm space on Nanjing Xi Lu. She tells ARTINFO about plans for the upcoming space.

Why did you decide to bring 10 Corso Como to Shanghai?
I like to mix cultures — that was really the basis behind 10 Corso Como; I was mixing Italian with Japanese or Asian [products]. So I thought, why not do the reverse, to bring our Italian culture to Asia? I’ve opened 10 Corso Como in Tokyo and Seoul. Of all the cities in China, I really like Shanghai.

What can we expect from your Shanghai store?
The space is beautiful: the building is done in glass and the view is incredible, it overlooks Jing’an temple and a park. I want to do men’s fashion, women’s fashion, design, books, a pasticceria, a restaurant, gallery, lounge bar, pop-up store. The principal is the same, bringing cultural exhibitions, books, design, food and coffee. It has to have its own world, like what we succeeded in doing in Korea. (Sozzani opened 10 Corso Como Comme des Garçons in Tokyo in 2002 with Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo and two outposts in Seoul with the Samsung Group (in 2008 and 2012.)

Why did you choose to partner with Trendy International Group for China?
I wanted a partner who knew retail, because I think you cannot go to China without knowing retail. We had another offer actually, but I went with the Trendy group because they were more open to bring the culture together with the commerce. They have a good group of international people who are dedicated to the project, so I think this is going to be interesting in what I want to achieve.

How do you plan to attract Chinese consumers, who are less used to concept stores?
It's a different shopping experience so it's going to take a little more time, but I think Asian consumers are moving very, very fast. It's the same as when I opened here 22 years ago: I thought it was time [for a change]. People were getting a little tired of [being confronted by] brands, brands, brands. There's nothing yet in China or Asia where you live an experience, where you have your senses stimulated at the same time, where you don't get bored.

How did the concept behind 10 Corso Como come about? 
I come from magazines: the only reality I really knew was to find something new, to share with the readers what I found and what I thought was good. The principal was the same, to create a home, a place where people feel comfortable to come in and find a little bit of what I like, something we can share. I think it's a matter of a communication.

Tell us more about your slow shopping philosophy.
Slow is fundamental, because I think there is no rush — for privileged people, never forget. There's no rush to buy something that you already have ten [of]. What you need is to live an experience: to find something you didn't have or look at what you have in different eyes. It's nice if you enjoy looking around and being stimulated. If you wait a little bit for a shopping bag or a beautiful ribbon. In the end, you buy to spoil yourself, or to spoil somebody you love. In both cases, you should take time, no?

How do select products for your shop?
I choose what I think is interesting and new. Corresponding to what I like, of course, but not what I wear — because I might like something completely crazy that I never wear, but that's another story. But I like to buy pieces that if for some reason nobody buys, I can put in my own account.

The gallery is an important part of 10 Corso Como. What kind of exhibitions do you plan to have in Shanghai?
It's going to be a mix of photography, fashion and design exhibitions. But we want to bring Chinese, Korean and Japanese young photographers and fashion designers, too. I think it's important to bring what we have here, but also to mix with what is there. The future is not only here, but all over the world.

Have you spotted any Chinese designers or photographers that you want to work with yet?
I'm starting to work on that now – we're still working on the construction schedule.

How about some of the Europeans brands that we can expect at 10 Corso Como Shanghai?
Alaia, Comme des Garçons, Lanvin... but also lots of less famous, younger brands.

10 Corso Como has become quite influential in the design scene in Milan – do you plan to take on the same role in Shanghai?
I hope I will! But it takes time, building and building [it up].