Prada’s Pradasphere II, a public exhibition that delves into the illustrious 110-year history of the Italian fashion house, debuts this Thursday at Shanghai’s West Bund art hub, set against the scenic backdrop of the Huangpu River.
The brand’s co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons curated the multisensory exhibition that showcases Prada’s engagements beyond fashion. More than 400 physical and digital artefacts from the archives across art, architecture, culture and sport, as well as a cafe and gift shop, will be presented to visitors until January 21, 2024.
Held at the Start Museum, whose original site was the first sea-to-land transport platform in modern China, and reimagined by Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel, the free exhibition connects visitors with the brand’s storied past, and its vibrant present and future.
The exhibition weaves through the timeless architecture of the Start Museum, echoing the seamless blend of history and innovation in Prada, which sets the stage for Miuccia’s reflections.
“I know this may be provocative to say – there is this belief that fashion is going to change with Covid, but I don’t think there is any change,” she said during the exhibition preview.
The journey commences with a digital parade of 10 runway models across various seasons, leading to a magazzino (Italian for warehouse), chronologically presenting Miuccia’s inaugural 1988 collection through to the latest with Simons. Delving into the archives, Simons uncovers the quintessential “Prada DNA that balances reality and eccentricity”.
“What is the definition of Prada ready-to-wear? I think the fact that was already set out in 1988 was interesting for me to discover, as well as for everybody else,” Simons said.
The double-shelved magazzino does not only give another dimension for visitors to admire Prada’s exquisite footwear, it also acts as a conduit to other intimate Prada worlds. These include “Fratelli Prada” and “Prada a Milano”, which entail the luxury brand’s founding story and the new Prada under Miuccia’s leadership respectively; “Gallery” that hosts a Damien Hirst work of Prada’s Galleria bag and other precious handbag collections; “Architecture” where visitors can scroll through Prada’s commissioned practices across the world in a futuristic home setting; and many more.
The latter half of the exhibition features “Materiality”, a mirrored chamber highlighting 20 skirts that gather together nearly three decades’ worth of textures and constructions. And it also helps transition into the action-packed, forward-looking facet of Prada with “Re-Nylon” and “Luna Rossa” (featuring a sailing simulator), which visitors can experience before going into the cafe.
The star-studded after party at Hengshan Cinema was attended by a number of international celebrities, including brand ambassadors Hunter Schafer, Li Xian and Tan Jianci , Hollywood actor and Prada’s catwalk regular Jeff Goldblum, Chinese film icon Gong Li, Hong Kong actress Kara Wai, models Liu Wen and Du Juan, Taiwan actor Eric Chou, Thai actress and model Kanyawee Songmuang and Chinese actor Bai Yufan.
Nearly a year after China lifted Covid-19 restrictions, luxury brands are eager to connect with an audience that yearns to form emotional and physical connections in real life. Gucci’s exhibition in April, Louis Vuitton’s pop-up in October, and Hermès’ exhibition this month all epitomise the industry trend.
Pradasphere II is likely to bode well given the brand’s strong foundation with locals even through Covid-19 – holding ongoing talks and pop-ups at Rong Zhai, a historic residence restored by Prada, and the 2021 wet market pop-up in Shanghai that has served as a textbook reference for other luxury brands. These give both long-time aficionados and new admirers a chance to engage with the legacy beyond the luxury retail space.
Pradasphere II is free and open to the public from December 7, 2023 to January 21, 2024 at the Start Museum, 111 Ruining Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai.