One of my brilliant writers, AJ Artemel (his eclectic Tumblr here), asked about writing about Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s latest video for Prada. I said, “Why not do something looking at their long history of collaboration?” He did, and he delivered. So proud!
I should say that I have a special affinity for the Prada “epicenter,” in New York City, designed by Koolhaas’s firm OMA. I remember the first time I encountered it, as a teenager roaming SoHo (back when I still thought SoHo was cool), stumbling across this space filled with what seemed like dozens of mannequins in gallerista garb, lined up in rows on a sloped wood incline, dipping down to the basement. I wondered, “Is this some kind of fashion museum?” (The building did actually once belong to the Guggenheim!) Anyway, it seemed so mysterious.
I dragged my aunt inside, and we marveled at the sculptural shoes in display cases like objets d’arte, the dizzying mirrored area (where I think some clothes and shoes were displayed), the display cases that moved above your head. I had never experienced anything like it before. I didn’t even walk out of there wishing I could afford even a T-shirt, I walked out of there like, well, I had left the Guggenheim.
I do think that the store has lost some of its … magic. I don’t like how now at the entrance there is a bevy of Prada-stamped bags. Now I feel like when I walk in there I’m being assaulted with stuff, or being constantly harassed to buy things. Before, I felt like I could just walk through and just be.
That’s one of the things that make OMA’s and Prada’s “Real Fantasies” video-lookbooks so appealing. Unlike most fashion videos (which have become a thing lately), the OMA/Prada collaborations are still refreshingly weird and vague and not-particularly-glamorous. They have a kind of winkingly amateurish Dada quality to them, with sci-fi imagery mixed in with classical Greek columns (kind of like the way Prada will combine classic cuts with garish ’60s prints or fuzzy synthetic puke-orange-colored fabrics.) Some of these images are even downright cheesy—like something you’d see on a Jefferson Starship album cover. But that’s kind of what makes them amazing.
Anyway. Much has been written about how OMA has created environments, moods, spaces—through runways, videos, and actual stores—that align with Prada’s intellectual, post-modern, ironic sensibilities. But there hasn’t been much about how Prada’s designs are already so related to Koolhaas’s work specifically and architecture more generally. As AJ writes:
Koolhaas favors architecture as a wrapper for activity, which acts as a handy metaphor for fashion, particularly in Prada’s case. More specifically, some of Prada’s recent collections have taken an architectural turn, with plexi embellishments and structured silhouettes.
But yeah, go read the rest of the article here.