The new way to worship luxury brands: from retail temples to art temples

UnknownIn a previous blog post I talked about how we are seeing a trend among Italian luxury brands to act as the new cultural patrons, citing examples such as Fendi and Tod’s who are contributing to the restoration of the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum in Rome.

Now we have another example of cultural patronage with the new Fondazione Prada in Milan.  A magnificent 19,000-square-metre space, designed by “starchitect” Rem Koolhaas, which includes a cinema, a 1950s retro cafe designed by film director Wes Anderson, and a series of exhibition spaces, housing some of the 900 works that Miuccia Prada and her husband have collected over several decades. It truly is a magnificent space.

Miuccia Prada has spoken of wanting to be “an active part of shaping culture” and resists the patronage angle, which is why she says the brand has always resisted sponsoring exhibitions.


Milan has been rather devoid of the world-class art attractions that London, New York, Paris and Berlin have to offer. It’s interesting to see that it has taken a private enterprise to fill the gap, as the Italian economy struggles to rebound from its longest recession on record.

In the same vein, we have the Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by Frank Gehry and located in the Bois de Boulogne of Paris.


Michael Burke, the chief executive of Louis Vuitton has said “if the 20th century was about manufacturing, the 21st century will be about intangibles”, meaning concern for things like heritage, the arts and the environment.”

It’s interesting to note that the global powerhouse luxury brands , Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci are all experiencing a downturn in business fortunes.  These flashier and more ostentatious brands are even waning in popularity with Chinese luxury consumers, who are now seeking more understated luxury alternatives. (Smaller, less ubiquitous brands like Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent are, in contrast, doing very well).

Perhaps the likes of Prada and Louis Vuitton will benefit from “ennobling” their brands by putting them at the centre of art and culture.  For these brands that have spent years building retail temples to themselves, perhaps these new kinds of temples – foundations – will imbue them with a richer and more valuable type of meaning.

McQ Thinking is a boutique brand and communication consultancy that partners with the marketing and advertising communities. Find out more at


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