Artistic Baggage

Industrial designer Konstantin Grcic explains how performance artist Joseph Beuys influenced his playful interpretation of the Prada bag

Last year, the architect Rem Koolhaas asked me if I would be interested in being involved with the Prada Invites project. He, along with two other design teams – Herzog & de Meuron, and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – had been asked by the brand to play with the iconic black nylon fabric Prada developed in the 1980s.

I started thinking about the bags that Prada produced with the distinctive, beautiful, tightly woven material, and how those products had really made the brand what it is today; but Prada now is much more a serious fashion house than a bag company. I wanted to bring the two together – to combine a garment with a bag – and what came to mind was the performance artist Joseph Beuys, and his fishing vest.

I have vivid memories of seeing Beuys when I was a child. I grew up in a town near Düsseldorf, where he lived, and though I didn’t really know who Beuys was, he had this aura – you could tell he was important. He would be dressed, as ever, in a felt hat and fishing vest with buttoned pockets down the front, and I admired it without ever really knowing why.

I think perhaps I was attracted to the idea that he had developed his own uniform. I bought my own version of the vest some years later, as a teenager, and I started wearing a lot of secondhand army gear. It was well made and practical, but I also think, in a subconscious way, I had been inspired by Beuys to develop my own sense of style.

So that was the image, Beuys in his fishing vest, that came back to me for this project. I was quite excited by the idea, and we started to mock-up our own interpretations, playing with different forms until we arrived at the apron, which is more straightforward and casual. I don’t think it should be seen as a direct homage to Beuys, but rather, like his own vest, which was made for him by his wife, it is a self-made, simplified interpretation of the real, functional object.

As told to George Upton

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This article is taken from issue 23. To buy the issue or subscribe, click here.