Pradasphere: Harrods’ exhibition showcases Italian designer’s iconic collections


The store has devoted part of its fourth floor to the fashion powerhouse.


By Emma Griffin

Miuccia Prada is kind of a big deal.

Throughout the month of May, Harrods is devoting part of its fourth floor to Pradasphere – an exhibition chronicling the Italian fashion powerhouse’s reign, through its most influential collections, collaborations, and special projects.

For someone like me, whose (perhaps tragically) most prized possession is a pair of shoes, from Miuccia Prada’s other women’s wear line, Miu Miu, this was a fashion treasure trove.

The youngest granddaughter of founder, Mario Prada, Miuccia and her husband took over the luxury goods manufacturer in 1978, and have since cemented it as one of the most iconic Italian fashion brands out there.

Miuccia herself is an intriguing character. After graduating with a PhD in political science, she performed as a mime artist for five years and is known to have been a Communist party member and champion for women’s rights in the seventies.

It is perhaps these dichotomous areas of her own identity which serve to give Prada’s clothing such a unique edge.

I spoke to the exhibition’s co-curator, Michael Rock, about why Prada still has such a relevance today, whilst so many other long standing brands have fallen out of vogue.

“I think fans of Mrs Prada sense a constant inquiry that is expressed through her work. She is not simply packaging trends but asking deep questions about the nature of fashion,” he said.

“I think her refusal to follow trends attracts thinking people who appreciate her unique creativity and independent thinking.”

Rock, who has worked with Prada for 15 years, may be right. Miuccia is somewhat of a fashion maverick, refusing to bow down to current trends, instead marching boldly ahead with her own vision.

The flora and fauna inspired shoes are a classic example of this, at fifty percent footwear, fifty percent work of art.

The main exhibition hall sees key pieces from Prada’s collections organised into six dominating, curved glass vitrines. Rather than being organised chronologically, Rock and his team chose to organise items in typologies.

Around twelve outfits are presented in each vitrine, with each given a theme, including: Continentalism, Femasculinity and Excessivity – queried by the caption: ‘Are they in exquisite taste, bad taste, or post-taste?’

For Rock, Miuccia is exploring what a phrase like “bad-taste” means. She is pushing the boundaries at all times, holding the mirror up to consumers and asking them what constitutes certain notions in the fashion world such as: “What is sexy?”

“The thematic approach allowed us to see how consistent those questions have been over a very long period of time. And because we were not worried about chronology we could juxtapose work from the most recent collection with pieces from 20 years ago,” Rock said.

With the vitrines, reference books and video timeline on the wall, it was reminiscent of childhood trips to history museums and was easy to forget that I was actually still inside a stalwart designer goods store.

This, apparently, was exactly what the curators wanted.

“We were interested in applying the methodology of the natural history museum – that is to create a taxonomy – on something like a brand,” said Rock.

The exhibition works fantastically, in a way that successfully demonstrates the essence of the brand to those unfamiliar with her work, whilst still managing to serve up the best loved pieces to Prada’s most obsessive followers.

The main hall acts as a perfect homage to Prada’s true individualism in a fashion climate which is constantly trying to put us into coops.

Elsewhere, Harrods presents guests with the Marchesi cafe, the Milanese patisserie that Prada recently invested in, and the stores street display windows are filled with items from the Prada line.

Rock’s closing comments to me about the main aims of the exhibition, are perhaps more apt than he thought.

“We wanted to do something that was both serious and pleasurable,” Rock said.

For me, it’s designers like Miuccia Prada who truly tap into what fashion is: an art form that goes way beyond the next ‘it’ bag. It is a form of self-expression and creativity, which surely transcends the greed which can come from such a successful and serious industry.

Thankfully, for many, fashion is still all about pleasure. 

The Pradasphere will be on show until Saturday 31 May 2014 at Harrods in London.

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