Prada and Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas have been collaborating for a decade, and whilst the best-known fruits of the partnership are probably their innovative architectural endeavours – think Seoul’s Transformer project and the Prada Epicenter in New York – those on the inside track have, for the past eight years or so, been exposed to another side of the creative partnership.
Koolhaas, his Rotterdam-based design studio OMA and the AMO think tank, have, since January 2004, collaborated with the Italian house on Prada's catwalk shows.
Adapting the expansive interior space that is part of Milan’s Prada Fondazione in order to meet Koolhaas’s exacting design agenda, the shows are consistently groundbreaking - creating a benchmark in show design not found anywhere else in the industry.
Beginning back in 2004, the show collaborations kicked off with the menswear A/W outing, featuring a relatively simple series of AMO-designed wallpapers draped throughout the space. Recent years however have seen Koolhaas and his team at AMO turn the traditional runway concept on its head, in characteristically innovative style.
The presentation of Prada's S/S 2010 womenswear collection in Milan is one such instance. Designed to split the audience down two sides of an abstracted wall – which came punctuated by seven regularly spaced doors – the openings provided the audience with a fleeting glimpses of the models, whilst 12 projections emulating the interior spaces of grand dame hotels came splashed across the walls, creating a beguiling, through-the-looking-glass effect.
Raising the bar, the Fall 2011 menswear and womenswear setting was a two-storey steel 'house' comprising various rooms - all connected by a corridor which acted as the catwalk.
Following on from this, the menswear and womenswear shows for Sring 2011 took place on an elevated stage, surrounding by stadium-style seating. Covered in a metal grille, the surface of the runway was illuminated with neon lights concealed beneath it.
The latest (and arguably most directional) collaboration, the S/S 2012 menswear show saw guests being greeted not by the traditional catwalk, but rather by a perfectly organised 'field' of 600 cornflower blue foam blocks that were individually spaced in 1.5 x 1.5m grid and spread out on top of bright green artificial grass.
Based on a disciplined spacial system, this layout allowed models to walk through the audience in a carefully choreographed sequence - completely banishing the element of front row hierarchy.
Prada isn't the only brand, however, to be shaking up the fashion show as we know it. To read about more fashion houses cutting the traditional catwalk to embrace the spectacular, turn to our March 2012 issue - out now.