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Inside the magical world of Prada

World renowned Prada architects, OMA, reveal why Miuccia is constantly surprising them

Last season, Miuccia wanted us to be curious. She projected a series of moving female shadows onto the walls of her set – were they live or pre-recorded? At the time, no one quite knew.

Yesterday, as she unveiled her SS14 collection in the Prada show space in Milan, it was clear that this season wasn’t about mystery or illusion – it was about pop. And lot’s of it. Titled ‘In the Heart of the Multitude’, it featured the work of four muralists and two illustrators selected by Miuccia and New York based design firm 2x4. Their work covered the walls of the show space – turning it into a trippy, psychedelic and pop-induced world. Walls had to be reshaped and reformed to offer multiple planes for the artists, which included Miles “El Mac” Gregor, Mesa, Gabriel Specter, Stinkfish, Jeanne Detallante and Pierre Mornet. If you happened to be watching the live stream online, then you were given a glimpse into their work process as they hand painted the space.

Miuccia is well versed in the magical and the spectacular. Every season, she creates a world and a context for her garments to exist in – imbuing each dress, bag or shoe with deeper meaning. Much of this is down to her longstanding partnership with the architects OMA and their creative think-tank AMO, who have helped her realise her visions.

In the aftermath of her SS14 show, we spoke with OMA’s Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli about their long-standing collaboration and why Miuccia continues to surprise him.

Dazed Digital: What is the collaborative process like with Prada? 

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: It is a very osmotic process: we start identifying the stage and set design at the same moment the design team start the identification of the collection. We begin with a workshop of creative thinking where we explore the concept of the show, and from then on it is an eight to ten week process of back and forth [discussion].

We always try to make people aware that it is not a collection and a set; it is one integrated project where the collection reflects the stage design and vice versa. It’s very similar to theatre, to a certain extent.

We never have a brief. In the first meeting we prepare some sort of proposal for the space, and we use this proposal to start engaging in a conversation. We never receive key words or imagery in advance. There is never the intention to define a very clear, linear explanation or conceptual approach; it is always a collage of context and ideas.

We always try to make people aware that it is not a collection and a set; it is one integrated project where the collection reflects the stage design and vice versa. It’s very similar to theatre, to a certain extent.

DD: Is that freedom quite exciting for you?

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: Absolutely, yes, and sometimes it is also very difficult. We work in collaboration through the eight weeks, as things get clarified up until the day of the show. It’s enough space to reinvent the show at any time; if it had very linear, brutal direction, we wouldn’t be in the position to reinvent the stage at any time.

Normally we come up with ten proposals for the space, and then we explore the elements of the design: the concept the development of the show, and the collection. There is an enormous amount of production to any show, and there is a lot that isn’t considered appropriate, not because it’s bad, but simply because it doesn’t embody the concept.

DD: Throughout your whole relationship with Prada you have pushed the traditional associations of a fashion show and almost distorted them...

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: We’ve been working together for a long time; I think we are in our thirteenth year. We have always tried to reinvent the mechanics of the show, and we did it through different stages. At the beginning, the first adventure was a distortion of the familiarity of the catwalk: we experimented with multiple shapes, multiple paths, so that the experience of the show would always be different.

The fashion system is all about who is more important; sometimes we play with this idea of going against the system

In the second stage we developed an almost polemic approach. We did this show made of 600 tubes on green artificial grass; there was a field, and what we wanted to do was discard the relationships between first row, second row. It was an almost polemic approach to the idea of stratifying the public according to hierarchy. The fashion system is all about who is more important; sometimes we play with this idea of going against the system. Everybody will walk the same; everybody will be the same height.

During the last seasons we have been exploring a more theatrical approach; we have been creating context for the fashion. We went through all the stages with the intention of going to the stage. The intention is always to deliver the message of Prada, make it stronger; in our case it isn’t [about going to] see a collection. It is about experiencing a show.

DD: It’s an experience: with womenswear, AW13, you had those incredible projections on the walls. It felt like theatre; it was so intriguing going into that space. You weren’t sure if they were models backstage being projected, if it was live or pre-recorded. That mystery was amazing.

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: In the last two shows, what was quite successful was that we really made an environment that [embodied] the men or women that Ms. Prada wanted to deliver. It was a completely different approach; we were in this industrial yet romantic environment. Some of the images you could see moving on the walls were models filmed the day before. There is a constant reference between what is real and what is not.

DD: There was fake furniture in the menswear show. It’s quite interesting this paradox between Prada, which stands for luxury, and this furniture. Do you like exploring that duality between luxury and minimalism?

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: Well, minimalism and modernity can be extremely luxurious. The intention was to deliver an idea of sophistication, that feeling of a very sophisticated modernity, a French sophistication that is made luxurious. Those pieces of furniture are actually an abstraction of a line of furniture we are currently designing, pieces that will be commercialised. It is a coincidence that when we were designing the show, we were also designing for the new line of furniture. At one point during one of the meetings, Miuccia saw our designs and we came up with the idea to use them in abstracted versions.

DD: How do you see Miuccia as a designer and as a visionary? How would you describe her; her work and the way she approaches things?

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: She’s the perfect blend between an extremely knowledgeable and scientific curator, and an artist. She works [with] extreme artistic intuition, but also very rigorous control of the concept. That’s an incredible strength, the way she can approach a project from both ends; keeping it very conceptual, but intelligent, with the right references and so on. It is always surprising to collaborate with her.

DD: What has been the most challenging show that you’ve worked on?

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli: The biggest challenge is speed. As architects we have a completely different speed from the fashion world. We work more slowly, we define order, and have to be in an over controlling situation. In the fashion world we had to learn to be fast and work differently; that was the biggest challenge, but also the biggest enrichment because we were able to develop the kind of attitude to be creative, but to keep things in control. To approximate the fashion speed was the biggest challenge.