It’s mid-Sunday and I find myself at the shops in search of a new suit for the Prada trip I leave for that very same night – at 10pm to be exact. It’s one of those two-travel-days-plus-two-packed-itinerary-business-trips that are impossible to pack for given the enormity of the circumstances. While it’s all very exciting and a milestone trip in my fashion career, I absolutely can’t put out of my mind the terror that is unfolding around the world. It’s hard to write about fashion in a time like this – and I feel extremely guilty partaking – but if for even five minutes this diary fills your day with a sliver of joy then I feel okay enough to do my part. This is a privilege that I haven’t begun to put into words, but I hope these few I’ve strung together can convey the feelings I experienced the last week.
It started for me at 10pm in a quiet suburb in Perth, Australia; north of the river and a black BMW waiting outside to whisk me away to the airport. For years I’d wanted to try Singapore Airlines' premium cabins and, doll, tonight was the night. I parked myself in the lounge and watched The Basement Yard podcast while I waited for the boarding call for my flight. Before I knew it, I was halfway to Shanghai for the second Pradasphere event in the brands history. There’s something about being in Business Class that makes you wish the flight was a nice 17 hour-hitter, but in the blink of an eye I had touched down in the icy cold Shanghai Pudong International Airport and I was ready to experience luxury.
As someone who’s never done a luxury brand trip before, let me tell you a little something about how it goes! As soon as you’re out of the trenches of the immigration lines you’re greeted by a TEAM *with emphasis* of Pradasphere representatives that connect you with your driver who drives around in a pimped-out custom Prada Benz. All you can do is sigh warmly, inwardly, and try not to make yourself look like a fool. I was coaching myself to "act like you’ve been somewhere". A car full of custom waters and hand sanitisers later, I was dropped at the back entrance of the The Shanghai EDITION Hotel (very much like an Olsen twin circa early 2010s) and checked into my suite within a matter of 30 seconds. No messing around and no asking for a holding card, we simply move different with Prada and I don’t know how I’m supposed to accept anything less from now on.
Inside my room awaited a welcome package of memorabilia that will most definitely go in a special box when I get home. Everything was so thoughtful – from the welcome note to the personalised mini Galleria with my initials on the key ring tag. All the excitement and anticipation would keep me from getting any sleep until the early hours of the next morning, but we started it off strong with a guided tour of the city and an informal lunch with a mixed bag of fashion people at Michelin-star restaurant Canton Table. The food being incredible was second only to the view of the The Bund and New Shanghai; the sun reflecting off the water and eclectic architecture.
We had the afternoon to ourselves before we reconvened for the private tour of Rong Zhai Paraventi, which hosted a group show curated by Nicholas Cullinan. The show was thoughtful and aligned so much with Mrs Prada and her appreciation for art and culture. It’s a beautiful meeting of east and west in different art forms. Each room with a newly commissioned installation has its own meaning of what it is to perceive reality.
We were ushered swiftly into the dining room with 100 others to sit down and enjoy a night of Italian with Da Vittorio. Initially, when I saw the caviar atop the crab dish, I felt a sliver of panic seep in, but the executive decision was made to take in the whole experience…I mean people pay good money for this, surely it’s good right?
I could go on about how beautifully presented and harmonious the meal was, but I’ll leave you with pictures instead. The time flew by and one Tylenol later I was on my way to karaoke with a few other brave soul. It was like Vegas meets Dave and Buster's; an experience many of us won’t forget and a few of us don’t remember (tequila was ushered in by robots).
Bright eyed and bushy tailed on the Wednesday morning, I braved the icy chill of Shanghai to look for skincare and snacks – which are the beacon of survival for any girl boss. It’s a whole new world out there and my choices were questionable, but it’s always about the adventure. That’s what matters most. Before I got too lost, I wandered back to the hotel to do my hair and makeup before the big night with Pradasphere. Now H&MU was offered, but as a control freak I just had to do it myself. Not only that, but I find it to be therapeutic, which is just what I needed given the position I found myself in. It’s really a dream to be able to do these kinds of trips, but it’s also very overwhelming and, at times, stressful. While everyone knows each other from previous trips and fashion events – years of relationship building – I’m only just now dipping my toes in! Thankfully, we’re all adults and everyone is lovely, and I regret overthinking and stressing myself to the point of no return once again.
Riding in private Prada cars, there’s always a chance you’re sharing it with someone important or an IT girl. On our way to the Start Museum I was riding with Mia Regan and Jenny Walton, two extraordinarily chic women with interesting stories and for the first time I was the least jet lagged. Outside, the crowd quietly and thoughtfully waited for attendees and their outfits – and it wouldn’t be long now until I was inside the incredible Pradasphere space, curated by Mrs Prada and Raf Simons and carefully put together by a stellar team in Shanghai.
Pradasphere really can only be compared to something like Disney World. It was an absolute playground of dreams for those who live and breath fashion. Prada holds so many iconic and culturally significant garments, and they were all laid out in front of us in that moment. Not only was there the great hall of archived runway looks, but rooms with different installs. One of my favourites was a boat simulator where the uniforms were designed by Prada. There are no amount of words that can convey the brilliance of the Pradasphere exhibition, it needs to be experienced and you can do that from 7 December 2023 - 21 January 2024 in Shanghai. There’s a refurbished train made into a gift shop on the side of the museum that has some fun and needy fashion memorabilia to collect, too!
With a quick champagne and view of the terrace atop the museum we headed for Hengshan Cinema for drinks and food with Mrs Prada and her entourage. I linked up with the icon Shay Thomas, who happens to be the Prada Australia final boss, and we indulged in one or two strong cocktails because that’s how the Chinese pour them! I also bumped into Marc Forne, my lunch seat-mate on day one and also stylist to Troye Sivan. I thought I was burning the candle at both ends, but Marc was actively styling Troye on this trip for an awards evening that was happening that very night back in Australia. Beautifully poetic and fitting (punny) Troye wore Prada, of course.
You can discover more information about the Pradasphere exhibition online at the Prada website.