There are few encounters in life more sensorial than our first day at Prada Mode in Tokyo. It is a cool, temperate day in May, when the sun dapples across the grassy lawns of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. A light breeze flits through, gently caressing the leaves on the trees above where we sit on clover-shaped wooden benches. Live music plays in the distance as guests chatter merrily all around. Small groups are starting to gather around the Prada bar—cutely adorned with the famed triangle—where bartenders are in charge of a selection of champagne, beer, sake and other non-alcoholic beverages. Hidden behind the bar is a food stand serving delicately packed bento boxes and fresh, piping-hot pizza by Pizza Tamaki Studio. Both bento and pizza boxes sport chic Prada Mode stickers, which the stylish crowd quickly becomes riveted by.
Over the next 48 hours, the Teien Art Museum became a Prada world, with its esteemed guest list partaking in its curated programme of talks, workshops and performances. Prada Mode is a travelling social club that fuses fashion and culture, and Tokyo is its ninth iteration, the last venue being in Dubai featuring an installation by Damien Hirst. Its location is often unique, as it is right this moment with Prada Mode being the museum’s first collaboration with a brand.
“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to host and curate Prada Mode at Teien Art Museum,” says Kazuyo Sejima, the brainchild behind the event. Sejima, looking resplendent in a white Prada pencil skirt with fabric florals from autumn/winter 2023, is the museum’s director and long-time collaborator of Prada. She is also a partner in the Pritzker-winning architectural firm SANAA, whose notable projects include the New Museum of Contemporary Art in NewYork and the Christian Dior building in Tokyo’s Omotesando neighbourhood.
Sejima adds: “This is a new type of connection and conversation in which architecture, garden, art and music become one. This event represents the opportunity for the museum to become a new public space.” Calling the Teien Art Museum a “national treasure”, she wanted to connect the famed building on the grounds—the art-deco former residence of Prince Asaka Yasuhiko—to the gardens and use the entire space for her considered version of Prada Mode.
“This is a new type of connection and conversation in which architecture, garden, art and music become one.”
While the prince’s home in the main building was only open to a select few, the event’s attendees were still treated to an impressive line-up of activities. In a small, sleek gallery was a selection of contemporary artworks inspired by the Teien Art Museum and its European-styled gardens. Guests could also take part in craft workshops or in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which proved an eye-opening experience for most. But it was the line-up of insightful conversations—which took place underneath the arched pavilion designed by Sejima’s partner, Ryue Nishizawa—that drew the crowd in. Rain or shine, these talks carried on in Teien’s well-manicured gardens twice a day. Nishizawa had a conversation with fellow architect Junya Ishigami about their respective works and landscapes, while artist Hiroshi Sugimoto spoke to Sen Sooku, a descendant of the originator of the tea ceremony. Sejima conversed with curator Yuko Hasegawa on where art and the environment are integrated, as composer and musician Keiichiro Shibuya and writer Mariko Asabuki discussed the challenges around architecture made by sound.
Shibuya also put up a jaw-dropping android opera performance on the second day, playing the piano alongside the Alter4. Designed by Hiroshi Ishiguro. the android’s facial expressions were astonishingly lifelike as singing accompanied his orchestrated movements. It was bizarre, yet judging from everyone’s faces, an out-of-this-world (pun intended) performance to hold on to—as we await Prada’s next big cultural moment.
The July/August ‘Reverie’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and on newsstands from 13 July 2023.