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Three Female Architects Reinvent Prada’s Nylon Into a Raincoat, a Bag and a Neck Pillow

By Kames Narayanan

A behind-the- scenes look at Elizabeth Diller’s studio.
Ungango + Agriodimas
A behind-the- scenes look at Elizabeth Diller’s studio.

For its Fall/Winter ’18 menswear collection, Prada invited three highly respected creatives from the realm of architecture to conceive an item from the house’s signature nylon fabric. Coined “Prada Invites”, the initiative was conceived to expound on the intersection of design across diverse disciplines. 

This season, the dialogue turns its inquisition to an international lineup of three female architects from across the globe: Italian Cini Boeri, American Elizabeth Diller and Japanese Kazuyo Sejima. Each of them, boasting a vastly divergent design vocabulary from the other, lends her unique design acumen to Prada’s signature synthetic. While their bodies of work may speak its own language, they are grounded in their experiences as a woman. 

Prada’s brief was simple — conceive an accessory or clothing for women out of nylon. Granting creative carte blanche to the women, the eventual pieces, created by women, for women, inherently fall in tandem with the house’s Spring/Summer ’19 ready-to-wear separates informed by Miuccia Prada’s acute understanding of a new generation of female. 

“I have thought a lot about the relationship between fashion and architecture. We have used fashion in our projects from a design point of view. Architecture is meant to exist for good and its success is judged by how long it lasts, whereas in fashion [it] can go much faster,” says Diller of the amalgamation of fashion and architecture. “A classic piece of clothing is the exception. Like architecture, when  you get a garment so essential and usable, it becomes an instant classic.”

Here, we delve into each architect’s design process for the collection. 

Elizabeth Diller

In 2018, Elizabeth Diller was named one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People” by Time Magazine — more notably, she was the only architect on the list. Diller, who cuts a prolific figure in the industry, has earned a name for pushing forth the boundaries of design through the employment of multi-media design. 

Just as in her practice, Diller’s two creations for “Prada Invites” — a nylon garment bag that transfigures into a raincoat and a yoke style bag — draw from multiple functionalities. “We took some of the same instincts from our architectural work into this project: to think about how a new programme (or how a garment), fits right now in the absolute present but also in its discipline,” says Diller.

While the nylon garment bag, fitted with zippers and buckles, unexpectedly unravels into a raincoat, the yoke style carryall is intended as a lighter alternative for women on the go. Both items speak of unparalleled levels of innovation deep seeded in Prada’s modus operandi.

“For me, Prada represents not always knowing what you’re going to get. It’s truly an experiment. I like that approach of not going in with certainty. Prada’s real proximity to architecture and art and fashion, is an assurance that sensibilities will be picked up,” says Diller.

Despite never having dipped her toe into the workings of fashion, Diller’s interpretations of the brief is a newfangled approach — by now, a rarity in the industry. “We have absolutely no experience in fashion design, which I think makes us absolutely qualified to do it. I believe in starting with zero qualifications. It allows us to be fresh,” she says. 

Cini Boeri

PradaCini Boeri’s messenger bag.
Cini Boeri’s messenger bag.

“In the way I work, the image derives from function, and so many design work starts precisely from this,” writes Cini Boeri of the driving force behind the messenger bag she conceived for “Prada Invites”.

Like much of Boeri’s architectural endeavours, the messenger bag she has conceived for Prada is particularly centred around the considerations of function. Just as expectant of a carryall, Boeri’s messenger bag is sufficiently spacious for one to pack their necessities. At first glance, from the carryall’s austere black exterior, it is evident that Boeri’s messenger bag is built with the idea of adding to Prada’s existing repertoire of nylon classics.

While bare of any motifs, Boeri’s bag packs serious sensibility. The messenger bag, fitted with multiple rectangular compartments, is designed to allow for better organisation even when fully packed.

A coming together of form and function, Boeri’s messenger carryall is on all grounds a design created to suit the needs of a woman.

Kazuyo Sejima

PradaKazuyo Sejima’s playful carryall that feature pouches attached to the bag.
Kazuyo Sejima’s playful carryall that feature pouches attached to the bag.

Perhaps the most playful take on nylon out of the three architects, Kazuyo Sejima created two bags for her collaboration with Prada — the long bag and the curve bag. 

As its name suggests, the former is shaped like multi-pocket travel bag and the latter, a neck pillow. Packing more capacity than the archetypal carryall, Sejima’s creations pack extra mileage with additional shaped pouches that dangle off the main bag. Fitted with pouches, shaped in odd, quirky silhouettes and awash in pops of colour, the carryall integrates seamlessly into Prada’s exuberant spirit.