The brand's latest project, "Il Palazzo," is so outside the box it's hard to wrap one's head around.
Prada describes "Il Palazzo" as a "series of diverse interventions featuring the work of renowned fashion illustrator, Richard Haines...[that] combines hand-made artistry and cutting edge technology, across both physical and virtual worlds." Confusing right? What that all means is that Prada enlisted Richard Haines (whose fantastic work you might know from the New York Times or his blog What I Saw Today) to make some drawings and it's featuring them on a limited edition range of t-shirts.
Only making those tees was the end result of a long, intricate creative process. First Haines made a book of sketches of Prada's autumn/winter 2012 menswear collection. He drew those sketches over existing prints to "create random meanings and associations." Then Prada published a 500 copy run of a book featuring 150 of Haines' sketches. And now they're on these t-shirts. There's also an iPad app.
We had to ask Haines just what this thing was all about. And since we had him on the line, we pried him for information about being a fashion illustrator, which seems like a pretty cool job if you can get it.
Fashionista: So how did this project come about? Richard Haines: I had met the people at Prada before. I missed the women's show the season before and they invited me to come and sketch in the showroom the day after, which for me was amazing. Then last January they asked me to come and sketch the men's show, which was a dream come true. I'm not sure what the plan was at the beginning in terms of a book, the iPad app and t-shirts--it just seemed to unfold for both me and them.
How do you sketch a show as it's coming down the runway? It happens very quickly! It's really difficult to get details, so I focus on the shapes and the silhouettes--the shoulder, the length of the jacket, the shape of the head/hair. It's challenging but so much fun--like a quiz show where you have to answer 20 questions in a minute!
What is it about Prada that's particularly compelling for you? I was always intrigued by the thought process that's put behind the presentations. There's always more than meets the eye, and I certainly experienced that working on 'Il Palazzo'--the concept of men's role play was wonderful to explore. And every time I've walked into a Prada store I've been so impressed by the color, the presentations, the attention to detail... it's been wonderful to be included in that process. Did you work with Miuccia Prada directly at all? I met Mrs. Prada in Milan, which was thrilling, and worked directly with her team that works closely with her. You have a pretty cool job--how did you get to be doing what you're doing? Yeah, I think I have a very cool job too, and I really love it. I spent most of my career as a fashion designer for companies like Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, and Bill Blass. When the economy tanked in 2008 and people stopped buying clothes I needed to reinvent myself, and I figured blogging was free and I loved to draw, so I started 'What I Saw Today'--an illustrated record of what I see on the streets of New York. From there the momentum has just built and built.
What led you to fashion illustration? I've drawn since I could hold a pencil, so it really is going back to my first love. I moved to New York to be an illustrator but at the time everything was switching to photography so I got into design. It's ironic that I finally wound up doing what I moved here to do. Life comes full circle!
What's your favorite thing to sketch? I would say people, but recently I've been working on a series of drawings of eighteenth century chairs, so in the larger picture I'd say I'm motivated by shapes and beauty, and things that inspire me to create a beautiful, emotional line. Fashion illustrators don't get as much recognition as they should! Do you feel like this is a profession that is still thriving or is it on the wane? I think it ebbs and flows, and has been gaining momentum in the past few years. I believe that, because the world is bombarded with so many images now, it will have more and more relevance in the future as a respite from photography. It will never replace photography, but it's a wonderful part of modern story telling.
Click through to see Haine's limited edition tees for Prada.