Somewhat unfortunately, the opening of the Pradasphere at Harrods just so happened to take place in the midst of last week’s tube strikes. If you don’t live in London and haven’t experienced what happens to the city when we have a tube strike, the situation is something like a cross between Armageddon and Dawn of the Dead. Standstill traffic; glazed eyed commuters running, shouting, knocking each other out of the way and generally stampeding around in a state of unbridled rage that I suspect many of us secretly enjoy, we Brits do love a good moan. Getting anywhere is a complete nightmare which is why I ended up walking to Knightsbridge from my home in Hammersmith, not a vast distance but wearing heels, carrying world’s largest handbag and in a rush it was far from ideal. I also fell over, twice, and was a sweaty, knee grazed mess by the time I arrived. I was regaling this tale to the Harrods team when a fellow attendee, who’d also just endured the journey from hell responded to their disbelief with a sentence that said it all; “but it’s Prada” i.e. we were all prepared to endure pretty much anything to be there. This rather sums up the fashion world’s feelings for the brand and explains why we were all in such a state of giddy excitement and nervous anticipation over the opening of an exhibition on its legacy held within a department store. Would it do justice to a label that has revolutionised the way many of us think about, feel about and approach fashion? Would it offer an insight into the mind of Miuccia, innovator, renegade and inspiration? Or would it be more of an exercise in flogging (fabulous) product within the glorious surroundings of London’s most famous temple of consumption? I’m incredibly relieved – and impressed – to tell you that the latter couldn’t be further from the truth.
Prada flags and expertly styled window displays may offer the outside observer a taster of what’s in store on the fourth floor but they couldn’t begin to convey the depth of detail and content up for ogling inside the Harrods Pradasphere. Running down the centre of the space, exquisite show looks are displayed in towering cabinets of curiosities, arranged thematically with titles such as “Femasculinity”, “Animality” and “Excessivity” and referencing the recurring motifs in Miuccia’s collections. In typically Prada fashion, this exhibition eschews the typical divisions of the fashion system, blending seasons and decades, ready-to-wear and couture craftsmanship to concoct a taxonomy of Miuccia’s different obsessions, demonstrating the lasting role each plays in the DNA of the brand. In the case of a designer whose every collection feels like an absolute original, it’s fascinating to see how in fact they all tie together, weaving a narrative of her career through the inspirations she returns to time and again yet somehow uses to create pieces that feel fresh and new.
Housed in a glass cabinet at the far end of the space is an exhibit containing a glittering array of objects and fabric swathes displaying Prada’s innovative use of ancient and industrial processes. As the V&A’s sartorial super show this year makes clear, Italian fashion is about oh so much more than glamour and the Pradasphere reiterates that simply but effectively. The point is clear, you can have all the ideas in the world but without the necessary skill and craftsmanship it’s just not going to work. Elsewhere Prada’s diverse projects and passions are explored, ranging from film collaborations with the likes of Wes Anderson to those with the worlds of architecture, sport and art. There is, of course, a specially installed shopping space and an incredibly chic Marchesi Café too but like every aspect of the exhibition they’re executed in a way that feels very subtle, cool and inimitably Prada.
The Pradasphere will be open at Harrods until the end of May. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Love Ella. X