From a distance, the windows of the Carlo Pazolini shoe store in Milan are invitingly vibrant with colors, shapes and movement, drawing attention clear across the Piazza Cordusio.
But closer up, all that vibrancy takes a different form – the form of human feet. And these colorful “feet,” molded in polymer and covered with wool, drive the merchandising for this Italian brand making a retail debut in Italy’s fashion capital.
Russian-based Pazolini had previously concentrated its retailing efforts in Eastern Europe before opening stores in the U.S. and Italy. “So it was still an unfamiliar brand to the city of Milan and it had to open in a big, eye-catching – but sophisticated – way,” says Giorgio Borruso, whose Los Angeles, Calif.-based firm designed the project.
The piazza is part of the city’s financial center and the buildings are stone and brick with large windows and high ceilings, allowing Borruso to take his shapes to their furthest extent.
The molded plaster wall facing out into the piazza is a curvilinear backdrop for Borruso’s sculptures, inspired by the foot of a newborn – “adaptable, pure, unspoiled” – and how footwear reshapes our feet over time, the designer says. The green, orange and white forms (which are also used as seats to try on shoes) swarm across the wall, similar, he says, to the way schools of fish or flocks of birds congregate, adding dynamic movement to the visual presentation. And on each form sits a pair of shoes or handbag, simply and directly merchandised.
The use of wool felt fused with the polymer was an important part of the design. “I’ve always been fascinated with natural materials,” Borruso says, “and wool is the most natural, having been a part of humanity practically since the beginning.” Also, he says, wool absorbs rather than reflects the natural light that pours through the windows, creating a soothing, gentle background for the colorful merchandise.