A common strategy deployed in the creation of a “look” is to place ordinary or banal objects into unfamiliar, arresting, and contradictory contexts, thereby altering their meaning. A look is not necessarily connected to its price: Prada can make plastic sheeting worth just a few dollars look “expensive.” Similarly, a cut-crystal sequined ball gown worth tens of thousands of dollars can still look “cheap.” In the late 80s, Prada pioneered cycling cheap materials into mainstream luxury items – most famously through the transformation of common black nylon into an “expensive” bag. By juxtapo-sing the glossy fabric against dimpled leather, its meaning was destabilized, creating a space where Prada alone could dictate value. When Mrs. Prada describes fashion as “instant language,” she is pointing to the power of context and timing to generate new cultural and commercial values.
LAPARELLI: “Prada is a really good example of a combi-nation of elegance and tackiness. We have moved in directions that were really unexpected for OMA, in terms of materials or lighting, and so on. We have begun to actually give value to things not because of their aesthetic value, but because of what they represent symbolically. Now, you’re looking at a particular material, but as soon as you charge it with a new meaning, it becomes something completely different. You could say the same thing about the gold leaf used at the Prada Foundation. It looks extremely luxurious, but if you take its cost per square meter, it’s a lot less than any kind of marble or stone, even most paints. The beautiful thing about Prada, and fashion in general, is that we learn to move through the symbolic meaning of materials in a very agile way.”
KOOLHAAS: “I think “trendy” is quite a denigrating term today. There are very few people who would admit to following trends or taking them seriously. But at the same time, we live in an incredibly fast-moving and chaotic civilization, so I don’t see trends so much as constant, but rather as morphing alternations between different urgencies and different mini-ideologies. Whether you want to or not, for me, it’s very intellectually important to take trends seriously and find a res-ponse to them.”