Prada Journal: a place for new stories

In a world of images, Miuccia Prada reminds us of the power of words during a NYC event

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Clothes can be a powerful medium, but for Miuccia Prada it’s when her garments intersect with other disciplines that they ignite the potential for something more.  Take her SS14 show for example, a dreamy pop fuelled collection set against a backdrop of hand-painted murals. Each artist involved was selected by Miuccia and imbued the collection with deeper meaning, so it went beyond fabrics and transformed it into something electric.

Over the years, it’s been through this unique approach that Prada have collaborated with some of today’s leading creatives from Wes Anderson to Damien Hirst. What’s more, Miuccia’s never shied away from supporting and encourage emerging talent. Her project  ‘Womens Tales’ ignited much needed conversations about women’s contributions to the world of film, whilst ‘Curate’ opened up possibilities for the next generation of museum curators.

Earlier this year, Prada launched a unique literary contest in partnership with Milanese publishers Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. Writers across the world were asked to respond to: “What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?” igniting in over a thousand applications. Then, last week during an intimate event in New York the five winners were announced.

Housed within Prada’s Soho store, which had been transformed through digital projections and painted mural walls, established writers Jonathan Ames, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Jay McInerney and Gary Shteyngart each read short excerpts from the work of winners Mattia Conti, Leisl Egan, Angel Mario Fernández, Sarah Harris Wallman and Peng Yang. Oliver Platt opened the evening rather appropriately with:  “Hi, I’m Oliver Platt and I’m the new face of Prada,” and went on to become the master of ceremonies. Each of the five stories will be published in the upcoming digital Prada Journal and the literary contest coincides with the release of Prada Journal eyewear.

Here we reveal two excerpts from the works of Leisl Egan and Sarah Harris Wallman. 

Excerpt from Punchline, by Leisl Egan

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…

THE BIG CHEESE EXTRAVAGANZA PRESENTS

…OUR OPENING ACT.”

Moptop sat at the bar in the darkened cafe and stared into the last dregs of froth in his ale. Wearily he rubbed a liver-spotted hand over his oily, wrinkly face. There were still smears of greasepaint around his hairline and nostrils. His cheap suit and greasy shirt were caked with grime, save for a fresh frangipani flower gleaming in his buttonhole. He puffed meditatively on his pipe and caught the eye of the Bearded Lady across the bar. She blushingly lifted her glass and giggled something to the Snake Charmer next to her. Alarmed, Moptop cleared his throat uncomfortably and ran his hand through his tangled curls. Thankfully, a hand slapped down on Moptop’s shoulder, he turned to see Vladimir and Poxy join him. Vladimir lifted Poxy onto the barstool and sat down next to him.

“How did it go?” asked Moptop. “Did you manage to work in the balloon gag?”

“No!” scoffed Vladimir, his red ringed eyes betraying his inebriation. “Those chush’ sobach’ya balloons could kill a man. Where did you get’em, Poxy? Mexico?” Poxy glared at him and began to gesticulate fiercely in return.

“Oh, keep it down,” replied Vladimir wearily. “Even with the gag we would’ve died, the crowd was nichego, tonight anyways.”

Poxy glared at Vladimir and turned to face the bar. Moptop nodded resignedly.

“Yeah I watched the beginning from the sidelines. They were a pile of corpses,” he agreed. “This town is the worst.”

He downed the rest of his ale as the bartender replenished their drinks. Vladimir stared at Moptop’s moody persona as Poxy winked at the Snake Charmer and waggled his excessively long tongue at her. She and the Bearded Lady tittered.

“What don’t you join us next time Boss?” Vladimir asked quietly.

Moptop made a non-committal reply and stared at the Strong Man sipping his blackcurrant syrup daintily in the corner.

There was a commotion at the door and The Big Cheese entered, his rusty-coloured coat tails flapping behind him. On his arm was his robust wife, Imelda, her layers of flesh tightly strapped in by her spangly belt. Someone small and thin trailed behind them, obscured by Imelda’s waggling hips and jutting bosom. The Big Cheese spotted the three clowns from across the room and made an instant beeline towards them. Moptop sighed and turned back to the bar. He didn’t need this.

“My boys! My three boys!” boomed The Big Cheese, slapping his greasy paw on the bench. “Barkeep! Another round for my favourite entertainers!”

“What is it this time Cheese?” spat Vladimir scornfully, as Imelda winked surreptitiously at Poxy. “We said no more pay cuts. I’ve only been here three months and already gotten two.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” replied Cheese smoothly, “I wanted to introduce you fellows to a bright young star I’ve recently discovered. I want you to take him under your wing!”

As Vladimir choked on his drink The Big Cheese stepped aside, revealing a pale and colourless young man who made even standing still the most graceful of movements. His sinewy arms were folded across his thin chest, as if barring him from the cold. Moptop studied the boy’s lank hair and expressionless eyes. There was something of the changeling about him.

“What’s your name son?” asked Moptop softly, ignoring Cheese. The boy glanced at Moptop with a bored expression.

“My stage name is Moondust.”

Vladimir hiccupped and sniggered behind him as Poxy paused in his wooing, to stare open-mouthed. Moondust ignored them and Moptop attempted friendliness once more.

“So you wanna be a clown do you?”

“Not really.” Moondust glanced at Moptop again curiously. “You’re the one that doesn’t perform, aren’t you? What’s wrong with you? Allergic to sawdust?”

Vladimir grabbed Moondust by the shoulder and pinned him against the bar. The rest of the performers looked up from their drinks, keen for any type of action that night.

Excerpt from One Car Hooks into the Next and Pulls, by Sarah Harris Wallman

The train ran between two rival cities. It was designed for efficiency, not love.

And yet as it burned up and down the track, it began to have feelings. This may have been a result of the friction.

Its first emotion was pride. It charged past the sheep in the field and thought: “Behold, sheep, I am Train”.

Then it began to look inward.

There are many business suits on this train; mostly men, but also women, who wish not to touch each other. They search for empty seats and tuck and retuck their coattails beneath their buttocks. They stare at their laps.  They sit near the seat’s crease, hoping to annex the space beside them. They would rather talk to remote people on little phones. The train admires their glasses because they are like its windscreen. When charging triumphantly ahead, one should be protected from the splatter of insects.

This train has been hailed as a marvel of efficiency and convenience. The rubbish bins are state of the art: glorious polished metal, scrupulously maintained by a uniformed crew. Bits of garbage are laid on top, a button pressed on the side, and horizontal doors swallow the garbage then click shut. The doors to the bathroom open and shut like portals on a spaceship, making a futuristic whissh.

The upholstery is a cheery take on certain modernist paintings, a design of brightly colored squares interacting with one another on a gray field. The seats keep everyone’s posture at optimum uprightness, though still many people managed to sleep.

Increasingly, the train noticed distinctions among the people. There was this one woman…

She wore glasses with sleek frames the same silver as the train’s exterior. She gave everyone appraising looks that made them slink away.   Then she studied her papers with a great seriousness. There were opportunities opening up in the rival cities. She was part of the legion sent to find what they might be.

There is not great variety along the route. Mostly fields. Sheep, grazing as sheep have for many centuries. From journey to journey, the train does not know if they are the same or different sheep.

The tourists let their children run about. Not at first. At first, it’s coloring books and patient explanations: the geography, the history and mechanics of train travel. Tissues pulled from purses to smudge barely glistening noses. This does not last. A few kilometers down the track and everyone grows tired of the window. They see no difference between one field and the next. The adults become sulky. They had hoped for a journey, and imagined that journeys are something more exciting than what they are. The children wriggle loose and run along the aisles, books forgotten, noses dripping. They try to barge in on strangers in the toilets. The strangers become nervous and cannot urinate.

This woman with the glasses has a particular repulsion for the children. She presses closer to the window as they run past, tightens her grip on the straps of her handbag. The bag will not have left her lap the entire trip and she will not have slept. Some women are sleepers. The train’s rhythm loosens their necks and parts their lips. Saliva dribbles. Not this woman.

Only once did she seem to sleep (with humans, the train has learned, there are always exceptions. It is exasperating). She encountered someone she knew from her daily life, another woman. They chatted for a few minutes, about the countryside, about the train. Then the woman, the sleepless one, the despiser of children, bent her neck like an awkward bird and closed her eyes. The other woman stopped talking after a time and became interested in a chocolate bar from her bag. It was badly crumbled, so it took her many miles to finish. Her tongue flicked at the corners of the wrapper as she looked around to make sure no one saw. Some minutes later she discovered several stray crumbs on her lap and ate them, guiltily, off the tip of a moistened finger.

The acquaintance got off early at a provincial station, and the woman in the silver glasses immediately opened her eyes. She set to the papers in her case without any of the squinting or lip-moistening that usually accompanies the arrival of human wakefulness. The train realized she had only pretended sleep. This delighted the train.

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