MILAN — At Prada, leather goods are “a symbolic part of its history and future,” said the group’s chief executive officer Andrea Guerra last week, as the company reported that for the first time it generated quarterly sales of more than 1 billion euros.
“The brand is agile with drops and novelties but also a patient developer of iconic products that are paying off well,” said Guerra.
Case in point, the Galleria, first conceived in 2007, has become a successful carryover signature bag, and Prada is once again highlighting this design through a new impactful campaign fronted for the first time by Scarlett Johansson and art-directed by Venezuelan-American artist Alex Da Corte.
In an interview with WWD, Da Corte explained that Prada reached out to him while he was on a lecture tour in the U.S. talking about “the Glass Age,” and this triggered a desire to further investigate the topic.
“In 1918, a technique called the Bicheroux Process eliminated long-held limits on the size of a sheet of glass, and with its invention the Glass Age was born,” said Da Corte. “It has been a period in which we desire through glass, and glass has in turn reflected, illuminated, isolated, incubated and elevated the objects of our desire. Glass did this first in the window displays of the grand shopping arcades of Europe, and it does it now through the screens in our pockets. The object behind the glass grows in power.”
In a serendipitous turn of events, the arcade has a special meaning for Prada’s signature bag, sleek yet functional, named after the location of the brand’s storied flagship in Milan — the luxury shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where founder Mario Prada, Miuccia Prada’s grandfather, opened his shop in 1913.
Da Corte pulled images from the past 150 years, thinking about “the body and its reflection.”
A Tony and BAFTA award winner for “Lost in Translation,” and two-time Academy Award nominee for her roles in the drama “Marriage Story” and the satire “Jojo Rabbit,” Johansson’s skills in embodying different identities are channeled into the campaign as she is seen constantly transforming, with different hairstyles and looks.
“I’ve been an admirer of Alex’s work but never imagined I would ever have a chance to collaborate with him,” said Johansson. “Being able to work in a multimedia context with him, using the design elements of Prada’s collection to create characters that are part of a work on love and self-reflection was truly exhilarating. The environment that Alex created inspired by Prada’s color story and aesthetic was very much like performing inside of a piece of art. It was a singular experience I feel so proud to be a part of.”
Color, a fil rouge in Da Corte’s art, is a key element in the photos, drawing on Pop and Surrealism, on the set of windows, stairs, tables and mirrors, and in the bag itself, revisited by co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons.
The images reproduce the words: “Our love is reds and yellows and blues and greens, Our love is lavender and browns and golds and greys,” which are also spoken by Johansson in a short video.
Da Corte’s works span a range of media — video, performance, installation, painting, sculpture — and this is his first project in a fashion context, although he confessed he knows “nothing about fashion, I would just always wear a sweatshirt,” which indeed he donned during a Zoom interview.
Da Corte was influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s thoughts: “If we look at a dazzling, altogether colorless object, it makes a strong lasting impression, and its after-vision is accompanied by the appearance of color.”
“The Glass Age is an era in which our world is formed through physical and metaphorical windows, from shop windows to screens; in the Glass Age we animate the objects of our desire through our attention, we give them life behind the glass,” continued Da Corte. “Glass is also a mutable network for infinitely connecting the world, the way we see the world, and the imaginary. Glass is an aid in the development of fantasy. The product is an icon and the subject is an icon, becoming all she can be, in all her complexity.”
Asked about working with Johansson, Da Corte said he was “interested in Scarlett as a modern icon, and how she succeeds in embodying different personas — a bit like glass. She is a fantastic performer, it was amazing to watch her work.”
Da Corte said he was given carte blanche by Prada and Simons. He met the former about 10 years ago. From November 2020 to January 2021, his site-specific intervention “Rubber Pencil Devil,” supported by Fondazione Prada, was exhibited at Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai.
Da Corte is currently the subject of “Fresh Hell” at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan. His most recent film “Roy G Biv” premiered at the 2022 Whitney Biennial.
As reported, in the first quarter of the year, sales of the Prada group’s leather goods category rose 14 percent at constant exchange rates to 434 million euros, accounting for 46 percent of the total in the period.
In 2021, Prada launched its first campaign focused on a handbag and a single product: its statement Galleria bag, back then fronted by Hunter Schafer, and directed by Canadian actor, film director and screenwriter filmmaker Xavier Dolan.
Over the years, the bag has been reinterpreted in several iterations, and remains among Prada’s bestsellers.
The bag was originally offered in Saffiano leather — a scratch- and water-resistant calfskin defined by a crosshatched surface texture, a material patented by Mario Prada and still a leitmotif of the brand today, created via an intricate hot-pressing process; raw edges are smoothed and hand-painted to match.
The Galleria bag is composed of 83 pieces, combining industrial precision with manual craftsmanship.