First impressions can be deceiving. When Miuccia Prada first encountered Theater Gates at London’s jazz club Ronnie He Scott, Gates was performing on stage with his band, The Black He Monks. “God! A multidisciplinary artist whose work spans land developments, Gates laughs about the memory: “I was focused on making sure the notebooks that came out were good. ”

It was 2012 and Gates had just opened his first solo exhibition in Europe at the Arts Club.The exhibition included his work In the case of race riots Series – An obsolete fire hose served as a symbol of the 1968 Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, where the hose was used for crowd control.

Ten years later, Prada and Gates are best friends and collaborators, and in the summer they celebrated the first European meeting for the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab. A three-year program aimed at supporting and expanding the Prada, investing in its development and introducing them to organizations interested in working with diverse talent, including the Prada brand itself.

“Best Friends and Collaborators”: Theastar Gates and Miuccia Prada © Lea Anouchinsky

Both wearing Prada’s signature Celeste blue, seated in the Ristorante Torre at Prada Fondazione in Milan, overlooking the city, they explore the role of art in society, the joys of hard work and social injustice. and their quest to combat racism. Gates was invited by Prada in 2019 to co-chair Prada Group’s new Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board. Prada nods in agreement. “Money and scholarships just aren’t enough. Why don’t I do something that offers more possibilities? We invented the lab,” she says.

Together, they are working hard to build a platform that is the quintessence of Prada Group’s inclusiveness initiative. “We want nothing more than to provide a declaration that we are ‘good,'” Prada enthuses. Gates agrees. “It’s about not only addressing racism, but understanding that beautiful things like intelligence, knowledge, skills and talents can come from all over the world,” he adds. , those who participate in the Experimental Design Lab benefit from a professional, industrial and creative network of fashion icons and artists. As a result, the Prada Group benefits from being open to different expertise and diverse perspectives.

The first cohort of 14 designers and artists were invited to Milan for a two-day retreat filled with presentations, activities and meetings. For many, it was their first trip to Italy and their first encounter with Miuccia. One of his highlights was being offered a front row seat at a menswear catwalk show. Actors such as Jeff watched as Prada and Ruff-She Simmons pushed the boundaries of fashion with a collection that explored the archetypes of menswear, from cowboy boots to trench coats and jeans. Goldblum, Damson Idris, Rami Malek.

The first cohort of the Experimental Design Lab will attend Prada's SS23 menswear fashion show in Milan in June 2022.
The first group of the Experimental Design Lab attend Prada’s SS23 menswear fashion show in Milan in June 2022 © Jacopo M Raule/Getty Images for Prada

The group, most of whom live in the United States, were selected from 200 nominees nominated by a jury that included the late Virgil Abloh, writer and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and architect David Adjaye. rice field. The collective is diverse, from product designer Norman Teague and hydroponic expert Yemiam, to architect Mayabad his Murphy, dancer/choreographer Kyle his Abraham, and visual artist Kentura Davis. It spans disciplines and age groups. At fashion camp, Tolu Coker, Catherine Sarr and shoe designer Kendall Reynolds lead their respective brands.

“Miuccia wasn’t just interested in fashion diversity,” says Gates. “She said, ‘I don’t care what the form or the artistic intervention is, as long as it’s about thinking.'” Create a cohort that benefits from resources, platforms, and getting to know each other and tried to shape the program as it perceives it. That’s where good things come from. ”

“There are very few people like Theaster. He is a great artist, but he cares about people in everything he does. I am in awe of Prada as the person who transformed it into

“My interest in art is based on my interest in politics, because I come from a political background. [Prada has a PhD in political science from the University of Milan]So I’m happy when I find someone to support this. Institutions can display beautiful art, but I try to do more than that. Art is always political,” said Patrizio, her chief curator and her husband. Prada, co-president of the Prada Foundation with Bertelli, said. “Theater creates art that pushes other perspectives, raises questions, and promotes an understanding of what is happening in this moment.

The duo have formed a strong bond over the past decade. It was ignited when Fondazione Prada commissioned Gates to create an exhibition. real value, investigating the economics of labor using recycled materials. Gates, now 49, is the son of a roofer who lived on Chicago’s West Side and is a firm believer in labor and manufacturing integrity. To revitalize Gates’ show, Prada introduced him to her eighties owner of a hardware store in Milan.

“For me, an artist can choose to solve any number of problems. There are other problems that can be solved. not the shape. blackchapelThe Black Monks band will play at this space in October. Gates is also preparing for a solo exhibition at the New York Museum of Art. A young lord and his traces A tribute to the radical thinkers who shaped his hometown of Chicago and America as a whole.

The experimental design lab A mission to put inclusiveness at the heart of creativity. “Race and inclusion are my main work, but I also work on the bigger picture. I’m starting with equity and inclusivity, and I want to tie that to environmental considerations, and I also believe that black artists—designers of color—only know black art. I don’t think you should, you have to know all about art, design and fashion,” Gates explains.

While Prada honed his fashion skills by working for the family’s luggage brand and carving out a unique vision, Gates’ ambition and aptitude were cemented while working as senior transit art planner for the Chicago Transit Authority. I was. There he took on projects that included commissioning and curating his $70 million worth of artwork across Urban Networks. What binds him to Prada is a sense of civic duty and a belief in the power of creative synergy to shape culture.

Prada and Gates first met 10 years ago at London's Ronnie Scott

Prada and Gates first met ten years ago at Ronnie Scott in London © Lea Anouchinsky

Beginning his career as an artist, Gates also began investing in the restoration of dilapidated, dormant buildings on Chicago’s South Side. There are currently 36 buildings. , part of which runs as his ReBuild Foundation. The business is funded by his own funds, private donations and public funding. “What I have learned from being an artist is not to be too crafty, which is to learn in public. Let’s see it happen.We keep it raw and keep learning.I’m not a professional developer and the architecture is homemade but this has its own charm there is,” he explains. Likewise, the experimental nature of the Prada Foundation opens a window on the brand and its ethos at a time when luxury brands seem to operate behind closed doors. says with a smile. He “always says that we should be happy to be able to make money with our bags and remain independent. In that sense, we are privileged.”

In the midsummer light, sipping margaritas, the two share a complicity beyond words. They are excited to be in each other’s company again. “I want to hang out with you in the office and see what happens in a day,” says Gates beamingly. Prada gently drops him off. “I think you’ll be surprised. I don’t do anything that designers normally do, like sketching or working on mannequins. I sit and think.”

The pair are in regular contact. “I feel like Miuccia is one of the few people I can call. She works harder than I do – and I need her opinion. It helps,” Gates says, referring to the dedication it takes to run the company. Rather, they are forced to act and help others. “We are the sons of roofers and the daughters of bagmakers. Work is built into us. That’s it,” Gates said. Prada smiles in agreement. “Lucky people who love what they do. It’s my instrument and I want to use it in the best possible way.”

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