When Miuccia Prada called French artist Christophe Chemin, she wanted kitsch and an excursion through history. Because that was what was planned for the autumn/winter 2016 collections. Fashion designers collaborating with artists is nothing new. Elsa Schiaparelli did so in the ’30s, when she had close contact with the Surrealists and Dadaists. Jean Cocteau designed fabric patterns for her. Yves Saint Laurent printed Piet Mondrian’s mosaic-like blocks of colour on his minidresses. Last autumn, Kim Jones had four prints by the artist Christopher Nemeth applied to coats and jumpers for Louis Vuitton. At Valentino there were geometric patterns by Australian artist Esther Stewart.
But back to Prada and Chemin. Prada is not one for relying on the tried and tested, which is why she was interested in an artist who almost no one had been heard of up to that point – Prada’s head designer Fabio Zambernardi was friends with the artist and that’s what ultimately led to an invitation to work with the label. And Prada was lucky, because Chemin wasn’t interested in any other fashion brand, according to an interview he gave to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. And yet this isn’t Chemin’s first foray into the world of fashion. With Sebastian Meunier, creative director at Ann Demeulemeester, he is working on a performance project in Paris. He could see himself working with Prada, so began drawing and writing concepts.
Battles, kisses, goddesses
And that is how a banquet for rats came into being, which now adorns skirts and shirts and is a reference to the fable of the rat catching Pied Piper of Hamelin. Other subjects include a kissing scene between an American soldier and the goddess Isis, still lifes, close-ups of old Renaissance paintings that serve as architectural elements, trompe l’oeil effects, battle scenes, and wild animals apparently taken from old Bible illustrations. Chemin enthusiastically ploughed his way through every single time period, style and context for Prada. This is one French-born, Berlin-based artist whose days of obscurity are over.