A startlingly different shopping experience is being offered to New Yorkers by cult fashion retailer Prada and architect Rem Koolhaas – but what were all the IT consultants for? Martin Spring tells all
Prada's newly opened megastore in New York offers shopaholics a revolutionary retailing experience. It is a dazzling fusion of cult fashion merchandise, sensational architecture and a futuristic interactive IT system that offers punters instant gratification – real or virtual.

Prada has conceived its £31m store, or "epicentre", as a "laboratory where the company can experiment with new forms of customer interaction … and continuously reinvent itself".

It was put together by 22 design and software consultants and fit-out contractors, headed by Rem Koolhaas' Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture and its conceptual "alter-studio", AMO.

Housed at the base of a 19th-century building in New York's downtown SoHo district, the store opens off the pavement with nothing as straightforward as a level entrance. Instead, shoppers descend into a deep trough, or "wave", that leads down to the basement and then rises up to the ground floor. As well as providing simultaneous access to two floors, the wave is made up of enlarged timber steps that double as display shelving for shoes and a raked 200-seat auditorium for performances and films.

On the ground floor, a "hanging city" of aluminium cages, within which merchandise is displayed, is suspended from the ceiling. Motorised tracks enable the cages to be reconfigured throughout the store. Existing party walls are lined in translucent polycarbonate panels, an industrial material favoured by Koolhaas.

In the basement, partitions are made up of customised compact shelving units, which can be enclosed for storage or opened up for display.

Cutting-edge IT manifests itself in handheld database terminals, with which staff can access inventories and customer information and control video displays on screens in the store.

The dressing rooms come with a video-based "magic mirror", through which narcissists can admire themselves from behind.

Shoppers are even offered a "now-you-see-me-now-you-don't" trick: at the push of a button they can switch the partitions of their dressing rooms from opaque to translucent and vice-versa. Revolutionary all right – and risqué too.