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Behind the scenes at KaDeWe in Berlin


Berlin’s iconic KaDeWe department store is undergoing a vast renovation process, and the results are impressive. We went behind the scenes to get an exclusive interview with the team, quizzing them on the exciting renovation, the best brands to buy and the exciting new eateries  

Sally McIlhone ,

In the rapidly changing world of modern retail, the department store is finding new ways to endure. Famed for offering everything one could possibly desire under one roof, modern shopping emporia must also be enticing enough to charm customers from their homes and away from the ease of online shopping. Berlin’s KaDeWe has shown itself to be particularly adept at this task, as have its sister stores Oberpollinger in Munich and Hamburg’s Alsterhaus. In order to ensure this continues, the KaDeWe Group is in the midst of overhauling the look and feel of all three of its retail wonders. It aims to revolutionise the department store concept and bring it firmly into the 21st century. As CEO André Maeder explains, ‘Our department stores are great theme parks, places where you will find extraordinary quality, inspiration, pleasure, styling, entertainment and outstanding service. In competing with international stores and online shopping, the three stores are and will remain the attraction of the future.’

Award-winning design
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) has been selected to renovate the KaDeWe store, following on from his work on the stunning Fondazione Prada in Milan in 2015. His concept for the Berlin department store sees the building’s 60,000 square metres reimagined as four quadrants, each with its own separate entrance and central atrium, which are tailored to individual customer groups and designed with them in mind.

The first phase of the reconstruction, on the side facing Tauentzienstrasse, was completed late last year. The windows were enlarged, echoing the large central glass arch that tops the store, as well as giving a nod to the large windows that the first Kaufhaus des Westens – to give it its full name – had when it opened in 1907. In contrast, the store’s new main entrance, with its mirrored glass and gold and silver touches, offers a modern counterpoint. The store has been keen to take this step into the future while paying tribute to its illustrious history, and it is details such as this that show how the past and present can be married harmoniously.

Fashionable spaces
In addition, two of the interior quadrants are now open: the India Mahdavi-designed women’s fashion quadrant on the second floor, and men’s shoes and accessories on the first. Mahdavi’s soft pink carpets, graduated stone flooring, graphic Bauhaus-style clothing rails and scattered side tables create the feel of a perfectly curated concept store and complement the brands on offer, which include Céline, Balenciaga and Chloé. Architectural firm Storage Milano turned its hand to designing the men’s accessories quadrant, and has given it a sleek, modern and modular layout. Seek out Ted Baker, Valentino, Dries Van Noten and Hugo Boss, among other suave and sophisticated brands. KaDeWe has always been dedicated to displaying the latest trends in fashion, lifestyle and design, and these new floors prove it can continue to be a leading light of the world’s international department stores.

Travel in style
Customers can navigate their way between quadrants thanks to four distinctive concourses with intriguingly designed escalators – the most captivating of which is presented in a concentric circle. This highly original concourse will connect KaDeWe’s interior to its new rooftop restaurant and its final ramp offers stunning views of the city. Lifts will allow visitors to access the delights of the seventh floor, which is due to boast a variety of eateries and bars, and will remain open even after the rest of the store is closed. An open-air garden is also planned, which will give a sneak peek into the gourmet floor’s kitchen.

Beyond Berlin
Those touring the rest of Germany should be sure to visit Hamburg’s Alsterhaus and marvel at the new Luxury Hall, which will showcase bags by the likes of Saint Laurent and Fendi, jewellery from Bucherer and edible treats from Fortnum & Mason. Over at Oberpollinger in Munich, urbanwear concept The Storey opened late last year, bringing together modern fashion icons such as bomber jackets from Alpha Industries and trainers by Vor. Designed by Gonzalez Haase AAS, the space provides visitors with the chance to discover the latest hip brands in the most stylish of surroundings.

Future plans
Renovations at KaDeWe will continue until 2018, with new elements being unveiled over the course of next year. The KaDeWe Group is focused on ensuring the in-store developments do not impinge upon the customer experience, so much of the construction is taking place after hours to minimise the disruption. KaDeWe celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2017. With its newly opened quadrants, enticing windows and exciting plans for the future, there’s never been a better time to visit.

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