From fac­tory to fash­ion

Prada in­vites four in­dus­trial in­sid­ers to rein­ter­pret its clas­sic ny­lon Po­cone.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - Words by Jayme Teoh

Prada in­vites four in­dus­trial in­sid­ers to rein­ter­pret its clas­sic ny­lon Po­cone.

For its Fall/win­ter ’18 run­way show, Prada took guests to its new ware­house next to Fon­dazione. The lo­gis­tic hub was filled with ply­wood, foil and all man­ner of in­dus­trial el­e­ments, and mod­els strut­ted down the run­way in unique de­signs by names not com­monly as­so­ci­ated with the realm of fash­ion. This is Prada In­vites, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Prada and four creative minds—ro­nan & Er­wan Bouroul­lec, Kon­stantin Gr­cic, Her­zog & de Meu­ron and Rem Kool­haas; de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects who each worked on cre­at­ing a sin­gle item us­ing the black ny­lon—a Prada clas­sic.


Prada brought the back­pack back in 1984, and Rem Kool­haas is tak­ing it one step fur­ther—he’s de­cided on the front­pack. Known for shak­ing up es­tab­lished con­ven­tions, Kool­haas is one who isn’t afraid to ex­plore con­tro­ver­sial ideas. His writ­ings have forced ar­chi­tects to shift their at­ti­tude of con­form­ing to rigid ar­chi­tec­tural norms to more flex­i­ble habits. Our so­ci­ety and cul­tural land­scapes are con­stantly chang­ing, and the way we think has to em­u­late this idea of trans­for­ma­tion. Provoca­tive, mor­dant and with­er­ingly witty, his con­cepts have changed the way we view cities, just as much as his ar­chi­tec­ture has com­pelled us to reeval­u­ate what build­ings can be and how they can em­body rad­i­cal ideas.

To him, the typ­i­cal back­pack is awk­ward and in­ef­fec­tive, with all en­try points be­ing “mis­matched and un­der­di­men­sioned”. Al­lud­ing to th­ese in­con­ve­niences and slow­ness, he has come up with a so­lu­tion. Along with his firm OMA, Kool­haas has cre­ated a provoca­tively pe­cu­liar yet per­fectly prac­ti­cal front­pack. The pro­ject has rein­ter­preted the func­tion­al­ity of the back­pack as one that can now be suited to the con­tem­po­rary ur­ban ci­ti­zen. The frontal po­si­tion makes it far more ac­ces­si­ble for trav­el­ers. What’s more? It pro­vides a more “in­ti­mate sense of own­er­ship—a bet­ter con­trol of move­ment.” In­di­vid­u­al­ism is cel­e­brated, not shunned as users can wear the front­pack how­ever they please, in­clud­ing re­vers­ing it and us­ing it as a back­pack in­stead. Be­cause the essence of Prada is es­sen­tially all about break­ing bound­aries.


The ves­tige of words on the T-shirt are present not just to please the eyes; they also hold a strong po­lit­i­cal mes­sage. Jac­ques Her­zog and Pierre de Meu­ron have cre­ated an in­spired piece of fash­ion that speaks in a dif­fer­ent ver­nac­u­lar: one that uses words to show its own in­com­pe­tence. The irony is un­canny. Con­sid­er­ing that we’re liv­ing in such a po­lit­i­cally charged en­vi­ron­ment, the con­cept of fake news is rel­e­vant now more than ever. Here, we have fake news turned fash­ion.

Ti­tled “Lan­guage Re­straint”, this three-piece col­lec­tion also in­cludes a ny­lon shirt printed with blocks of blurred texts, and a jacket dot­ted with but­tons em­bel­lished with let­ter frag­ments. They stay true to their ar­chi­tec­tural styles of abun­dant print­ing and or­na­men­tal façades, and the shirt cer­tainly re­flects that with the ex­or­bi­tant use of black text against a white back­ground. Her­zog said that the piece de­picts “the in­creas­ing dis­ap­pear­ance of text as a re­li­able medium of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” Whilst the printed words of the pieces ex­ude a ve­neer of chic­ness, it also rep­re­sents its abil­ity to hide the truth—truths that are now triv­i­alised. As Her­zog and de Meu­ron put it: “Truths, half-truths, and un­truths rub shoul­ders as equals in our so-called in­for­ma­tion so­ci­ety.” We agree. Apart from hard sci­en­tific facts, ev­ery­thing else comes down to sub­jec­tiv­ity and in­ter­pre­ta­tion, just like fash­ion it­self.


Rather than as­sum­ing a sig­na­ture look or iden­tity, Ro­nan and Er­wan Bouroul­lec’s de­signs have as their rai­son d’êtrel, a real flex­i­bil­ity at the hands of the con­sumer. Their phi­los­o­phy? Let­ting the user de­fine what an ob­ject is and how to use it. The in­spi­ra­tion for the port­fo­lio case is linked to Er­wan’s mem­ory of car­ry­ing a port­fo­lio as a stu­dent. And Ro­nan has al­ways “liked the pro­files of peo­ple—ar­chi­tects, painters and stu­dents—walk­ing around with art fold­ers.” There’s al­ways a sense of el­e­gance and im­por­tance when peo­ple rush around a bustling city, port­fo­lio in hand.

The Bouroul­lec brothers have suc­cess­fully recre­ated this ex­pe­ri­ence for any work­ing man—the el­e­vated ex­pe­ri­ence of car­ry­ing around a reimag­ined work bag. The brief­case is a clas­sic, but the port­fo­lio adds a mod­ern and artis­tic twist to some­thing we’re used to. The clear-cut shape, sharp edges and fixed ge­om­e­try against a mov­ing and in­dis­tinct fig­ure won­der­fully com­ple­ments each other—the per­fect bal­ance of in­de­pen­dent fea­tures and in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness; yin and yang. The pro­ject takes that solid con­tour and “in­stills it in a shoul­der bag, with its inside gus­set, low fas­ten­ing, elas­tic bands and eye­let, and use of a sin­gle colour, which pro­duces a sub­tle graph­i­cal play­ful­ness,” Ro­nan ex­plained. The refined case comes in mul­ti­ple sizes with a range of ac­cented pops of colour on the elas­tic bands. It’s sim­plic­ity and mul­ti­ple ver­sions al­low the user to style it in any man­ner.


In Kon­stantin Gr­cic’s eyes, func­tion­al­ity is de­fined in hu­man terms as com­bin­ing for­mal strict­ness with in­tel­lec­tual acu­ity and hu­mour. He’s known for his log­i­cal de­signs, mo­ti­vated by the in­tegrity of ma­te­ri­als and an ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of pro­duc­tion meth­ods, all whilst in­te­grat­ing a sense of orig­i­nal­ity. As he said, “Func­tion is the in­tel­li­gence of a product. In­tel­li­gence pro­duces beauty.”

This is em­bod­ied in his piece as part of Prada In­vites, where prac­ti­cal­ity meets style. This de­sign is a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the multi-pock­eted vests tra­di­tion­ally worn by fish­er­men, a tra­di­tion­ally ver­sa­tile and lightweight gar­ment. His ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion was drawn from the fish­ing vest Joseph Beuys al­ways wore—made for him spe­cially by his wife—but in a more ab­stract man­ner. Beuys, an artiste ex­traor­di­naire, lived and taught in a West Ger­man town not far from Wup­per­tal, where Gr­cic grew up in the ‘70s. “His par­tic­u­lar uni­form be­came an iconic look for the artist’s anti-es­tab­lish­ment at­ti­tude, which re­ally at­tracted me as a teenager—like punk rock,” Gr­cic fur­ther elab­o­rated. He cou­pled this in­spi­ra­tion with an homage to Prada’s orig­i­nal 1984 ny­lon back­pack, re­sult­ing in the “Apron and Hood”—a bizarre side-slung apron piece with an abun­dance of pock­ets, which can dou­ble as a frontal vest at­tached to the body by a hood. The mul­ti­fac­eted piece also has a de­tach­able vest to go with the apron: per­fect for those who wants to stand out, dis­creetly.

Kon­stantin Gr­cic. Ro­nan & Er­wan Bouroul­lec.

Her­zog & De Meu­ron. Rem Kool­haas.

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