First look

Hong Kong Tatler - - Fashion -

Mi­uc­cia Prada pleases her­self when it comes to de­sign and of­ten cre­ates trends rather than fol­low­ing them pres­ti­gious Gal­le­ria Vit­to­rio Emanuele 11 shop­ping ar­cade. Some­thing called Ty­polo­gies then dom­i­nates the hall, with six free­stand­ing dio­ra­mas ded­i­cated to Mrs’ par­tic­u­lar ob­ses­sions or fas­ci­na­tions, tax­onomies of Prada prod­uct, each with con­cept names: Fe­mas­culin­ity (cross­over of the sexes), An­i­mal­ity (in­spi­ra­tion from the nat­u­ral world), Con­ti­nen­tal­ism (homage to Euro­pean his­tory), Ex­ces­siv­ity (testing the lim­its of ex­trav­a­gance), Fig­u­ra­tion (a pas­sion for prints) and Mod­ernism (min­i­mal com­po­si­tion). The names are meant to be play­ful, a lex­i­cal prêt-a-port­man­teau.

Against a video dis­play at booth’s end, a cabi­net con­tains tex­tures and sur­faces that best re­flect and de­fine Prada. Spring/sum­mer 2007’s bot­tle caps lend edge to a dress; SS10’S crys­tal chain mail and SS04’S tie-dye. The hits keeps com­ing. We see SS07 tur­bans with SS14 tube socks, SSO8 nymph and fairy il­lus­tra­tions by artist James Jean, the guipure lace of au­tumn/win­ter 2008, which could just as eas­ily be AW14/15, the se­quins and snakeskin of AW11, the post­card prints from SS10.

We en­ter a screen­ing room la­belled Ob­ser­va­tion that shows Prada’s am­bi­tious film and video projects with such em­i­nences as Ri­d­ley Scott, Ro­man Polan­ski, James Lima, Wes An­der­son and Chi­nese artist Yang Fudong. In a dis­play called Evo­lu­tion, we find ar­chi­tec­tural mod­els by fre­quent and long-time ar­chi­tec­tural col­lab­o­ra­tors Rem Kool­haas/oma and Her­zog & de Meu­ron. Kool­haas has de­signed a new head­quar­ters and ex­hi­bi­tion space for the Prada Foun­da­tion in a 1910 dis­tillery in Largo Isarco, south of Mi­lan, due to open this year. That will be its own Pra­da­v­erse of ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion, com­pris­ing dis­ci­plines rang­ing from art, cinema and de­sign to ar­chi­tec­ture and phi­los­o­phy, to mu­sic and per­form­ing arts.

It’s all a re­minder of the range and pas­sion of Mrs Prada’s in­ter­ests and ob­ses­sions. The Prada Foun­da­tion reg­u­larly ex­hibits at de­sign fairs in Venice and Mi­lan, and the Prada HQ in Mi­lan houses a Damien Hirst pick­led sheep in the lobby. (Mrs is a per­sonal friend of US artist Cindy Sher­man, was a trained and per­form­ing mime for five years at Mi­lan’s Pic­colo Teatro in the 1970s, and, sur­pris­ingly for one so art­ful, doesn’t draw).

“We’re try­ing to un­der­stand how Mrs Prada speaks, through ma­te­ri­als, de­sign, spe­cial projects, fash­ion and film. I think the past and present ex­ist to­gether in a very dy­namic re­la­tion­ship,” says Rock. “Her work is iden­ti­fied more with an at­ti­tude—a Prada kind of thing— than with a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct. I would say her work is much more iden­ti­fied with at­ti­tude.”

Style im­pre­sario, pub­lisher, blog­ger ex­traor­di­naire and now actress Tavi Gevin­son agrees: “Prada’s clothes ex­ist in a vac­uum that lives out­side of cul­tural ref­er­ences. If per­sonal style is cu­rios­ity about one­self, then Prada is an in­cen­tive to greater un­der­stand­ing.”

Be­fore there was dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy, there was dis­rup­tive fash­ion and its name was Prada. The brand was fash­ion’s an­ti­dote from the mid 1980s when Mi­uc­cia’s mo­ment came in the un­likely form of a ruck­sack made of mil­i­tary-grade black ny­lon. She took the util­i­tar­ian bag and used industrial pro­cesses to cre­ate a lux­u­ri­ous and highly de­sir­able fash­ion item. It was sim­ple, un­der­stated and func­tional. And a global smash hit.

Overnight, the brand ac­quired a cool and cult the envy of the fash­ion busi­ness. Prada be­came coun­ter­cul­ture, counter-cou­ture,

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