Quote of Note | Judith Thurman

“There may be only one designer more absolute in her confidence than [Miuccia] Prada: her fellow-honoree at the Costume Institute. [Elsa] Schiaparelli did more than any of her peers to promote fashion’s status as an art, and she would no doubt have found it natural to mingle at the Met with Phidias and Vermeer. Prada’s statements about art suggest that she must find her own enshrinement somewhat ironic. Her fortune has financed an adventurous private collection, an exhibition space outside Milan, and a foundation that supports cultural experiments. In 2010, she was invited to present the Turner Prize at Tate Britain, partially in recognition of her prominence as a patron. (She wore a pair of plastic banana earrings with a stark black coat.) She has also worked with the Dutch architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas on the design of her major retail spaces, which she calls ‘epicenters,’ in New York and Los Angeles. Yet Prada insists that her vocation and her avocation are unrelated. She has refused to collaborate on limited editions of Prada merchandise with any of the art stars in her collection. (‘Anything that doesn’t sell,’ she once said dryly, ‘is a limited edition.’) In her somewhat heretical view of a profession that often hankers after transcendence, fashion design may be a creative enterprise, concerned, as art is, with culture and identity, but it isn’t what artists do.”

Judith Thurman in “Radical Chic,” her New Yorker preview of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s imminent spring Costume Institute exhibition, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

Above: Elsa Schiaparelli in a 1932 portrait by George Hoyningen-Huené and Miuccia Prada photographed by Guido Harari in 1999. (Photos: Hoyningen-Huené/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive and Guido Harari/Contrasto/Redux)