Villa Moda Bahrain by Marcel Wanders

A “luxury souk” designed by the Dutch design studio


All images and information courtesy of Marcel Wanders; images © by Marcel Wanders studio
The prestigious Condé Nast Traveller Innovation and Design Awards 2009 short listed
Marcel Wanders for the interior design of the Villa Moda store in Bahrain in the Retail category.

During the last 8 month desMena brought to you a selection of over 50 architectural projects from the Mena region. Admittedly the desMena team -all architects working in the region- have been focused passionately on presenting architecture. Turning back to the initial aim of presenting outstanding designs from product to building we take a look at Marcel Wanders design for the Villa Moda store in Bahrain. Opened in 2008 the interior design has been a great success in the eye of customers and critics.

Villa Moda is a multibrand luxury fashion store founded by Sheikh Majed, one of the driving forces behind fashion in the Middle East. For the interior design of Villa Moda, Marcel Wanders found inspiration in the traditional souk, creating a melting pot of cultures full of surprising details: “The souk is the ultimate marketplace, a concentration of innovation and tradition, diversity and intimacy. Lose yourself in labyrinth passages and find yourself anew. We designed Villa Moda Bahrain as an international Babel of fashion, in order to share instead of divide. Meet the people of the own streets; shake hands and learn each other’s language.” The prestigious Condé Nast Traveller Innovation and Design Awards 2009 short listed Marcel Wanders for the interior design of the Villa Moda store in Bahrain in the Retail category.

Lead Designer: Marcel Wanders
Design team: Marcel Wanders, Karin Krautgartner, Aino Kavantera
Location: Bahrain
Client: Sheikh Majed al-Sabah
Completion of Project: June 2008
Photography: Marcel Wanders studio


The following text provided by Marcel Wanders has been released for the opening of the store and gives some insight in the Dutch studios’ design as part of the marketing and branding of  Villa Moda in the region:

Villa Moda is about to launch its seventh luxury fashion emporium, a 1050 m2 space in a new ultra luxury shopping mall, the Moda Mall in Bahrain. Villa Moda Bahrain will feature staggeringly innovative and fantastical designs by Dutch design maverick Marcel Wanders.

Situated in a prime central location with views over the sea, the store will sit alongside luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Fendi. “I was looking for someone who’d never designed a real fashion store before,” explains Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah, Villa Moda’s founder, of his decision to commission Wanders, whom he discovered through his furniture designs. While Wanders is acclaimed for his work with manufacturers such as Droog Design, B&B Italia, Bisazza and Cappellini, Villa Moda Bahrain will be the first time he has worked on a luxury concept store. The commission is in keeping with Al-Sabah’s adventurous spirit and willingness to take risks. The brief was simple; to be inspired by the chaos of the souk within a luxury fashion context. Al-Sabah took Wanders on a tour of the Middle East, exploring souks and traditional retail concepts.

Wanders’ resulting designs were created under the theme of the ‘International Souk’. “We wanted to create a shop which is really surprising,” Wanders explains; “every time you go there you discover something new.” Wanders designed the store as if it were a small city – a lot of the elements have an architectural feel as customers move from one place to another. Local motifs and traditions are combined with Wanders’ joyful, fantastical aesthetic to develop an environment with an “Alice-in-Wanders-land” appeal, as he jokingly puts it. “We are trying to do work which takes you to new places, which makes you see the world in a new way.”

The façade is covered in giant pearl-like spheres, a reference to Bahrain’s heritage as the pearl stock market of the Middle East. Customers enter a long, narrow corridor that opens into a dramatic, high-ceilinged space with giant patterns in black and white on custom carpeting and overscale wallpaper. “We worked with craftsmen from the region and around the world,” Wanders adds, “but confused them with our way of looking at these crafts; we used their expertise but asked them to do things they wouldn’t normally do.” A striking example is a giant sculptural flower pattern made in plaster covering the wall behind the cash desk. Other specially designed features include walls with Bisazza mosaics and custom-made carpets created in Germany.

Villa Moda Bahrain will offer a cutting edge mix of innovative luxury brands which have little or no representation in the Middle East, such as Anya Hindmarch, Martin Margiela, Ossie Clark, rue du Mail, Nina Ricci, Christopher Kane, Comme des Garçons and Junya Watanabe. Standalone stores for brands such as Marni and Dries van Noten will sit among womens’ and mens’ multibrand areas, evening wear, young fashion, sunglasses, perfumes, shoes and jewellery. With Bahrain’s status as a hub for banking institutions, the mens’ offer will emphasise suiting for the executive market. “It’s a fun playground for shoppers”, Al-Sabah explains, describing the store as a,“luxury souk where customers can find a £20 t-shirt or a £20,000 evening dress.” With customers being able to pick up treasures as diverse as a Karim Rashid vase, an Assouline book, a pair of jeans from Seven or a dress from Dries van Noten, Villa Moda Bahrain will offer a treasure trove of discoveries in a retail environment that is truly unforgettable.






































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