"Prada Invites" Kazuyo Sejima - 妹島和世
“When I think about architecture, I like to ask myself: how would it be more enjoyable to use?”.
Renowned Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima – winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2010 - recently designed Daln and Yooo, two playful and versatile nylon bags, for the Italian brand Prada. The new collection was presented in April at the Prada Aoyama flagship store in Tokyo.
“Prada Invites” is a series of projects created in collaboration with exceptional designers and architects, intending to promote collaborations between different design disciplines. It was first launched in 2018 with Rem Koolhaas, Konstantin Grcic, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, and Herzog & De Meuron, who were asked to create designs from the classic Prada Nylon.
Nylon is the “anti-luxury” material that became widely accepted in the world of luxury thanks to Miuccia Prada in 1984 - when she proposed the iconic Vela backpack made from parachute fabric - moving away from traditional materials to embrace a more modern sensibility. From that moment, Prada became the symbol of newness and technological innovation in the fashion industry. “We are living through strange times in which we do not know quite where we are going. Of course, it can be scary, it can be worrying, but it’s interesting because of the feeling that big changes are coming”. This words by Miuccia Prada synthesise the farsighted vision of the company, whose winning strategy is to anticipate trends rather than following it. One interesting example is “Nylon Farm”, a recent campaign filmed at the company’s industrial headquarters in Valvigna that push this concept to the limits. Similar to a sci-fi novel by Philip K. Dick, the short videos feature a prefiguration of a factory the future, with a cyborg “nylon sheep” producing synthetic fleece woven by futuristic IT systems.
This year Prada Invites three prominent female architects, Cini Boeri, Elizabeth Diller and Kazuyo Sejima, who were asked to propose new pieces inspired by the qualities inherent in the nylon fabric. As stated officially, “Created by women, for women, this new chapter expounds and expands Prada’s ongoing fascination with multifaceted representations of contemporary femininity, as perceived by a multitude of female viewpoints”. The design philosophy behind each piece is expressed through the design process itself, as explained in the catalogue created for the occasion - filled with sketches, drawings and conversations with the three authors – and through a series of videos focused on several themes, including their sources of inspiration and the creative method.
"Prada Invites" is an interesting experiment on the heteronomy of fashion design, its capacity to draw inspiration from different disciplines. Cini Boeri has created a messenger style bag that can adapt to any situation thanks to its modular design. Whereas the smart bags by Elizabeth Diller are garment holders that turn into clothing. Kazuyo Sejima designed two bags that can hang on the wall or can be used as a neck pillow. Both intended for travel, one doubly functions as a neck pillow.
“When you use the bag, you can develop a relationship with your friend (bag), and you can create your own personalized form", says Sejima. The bags are conceived like pets and incarnate perfectly the Japanese concept of kawaii, the culture of cuteness that made Japanese style loved worldwide.
Therefore, the keywords for the three projects are adaptability and customisation. These are the same concepts that drive the recent trends in the world of luxury. Society is going toward glocalisation and adaptive customisation, and luxury brands have to follow. The global fashion brands are becoming platforms to help people to express themselves. While waiting for a future where everything is made-to-order, lightly customizable products are becoming popular.
The launch party dedicated to the new bags designed by Sejima was hosted at the Prada Aoyama flagship store in Omotesando - the kaleidoscope-like structure created by the Swiss architectural office Herzog & De Meuron - furnished for the occasion with re-editions of 1960s inflatable stools designed by renowned Danish designer Verner Panton. This iconic building, realised in 2003, features a diamond-shaped grid filled with hundreds of custom-made glass panels. A 3d model of the same building, recreated with virtual reality, was customised by the Japanese digital artist Aimi Sekiguchi (せきぐちあいみ) in an impressive live performance held during the event. Again, an effective marketing strategy in line with Prada’s openness for innovation and technology.