“I had a strange idea,” Miuccia Prada told me, calling from her office in Milan in July, a few days before her Miu Miu show was to take place in Paris. “When I first imagined the Fondazione Prada,” she said, referring to the art-and-culture complex she and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, opened this spring in a former distillery, “I knew I wanted a bar, and I immediately thought that a film director should create this space. Everyone told me I was crazy!” Prada laughed. “But when they tell me I’m crazy, I know I’m on to something interesting.”
Prada’s first choice was Wes Anderson, the director of such visually influential movies as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. They had worked together before—on a short film in 2013 that starred Jason Schwartzman as a Prada-clad race-car driver—and Prada knew that Anderson has a unique and precise vision. From the interiors to the costumes to the oddball names of his characters, Anderson’s work is a captivating mélange of vintage and modern, real and invented. In his films, he always gives the best version of the past his own inimitable twist. The end result is an original, fully realized world.
Initially, Anderson resisted Prada’s architectural overture. “He said, ‘No, no, no!’” she exclaimed, sounding amused. “After many months, I finally convinced him. And I was right, because this bar is not a normal place—it is an extension of Wes’s art.” Bar Luce, as they decided to call it, could be a set in one of Anderson’s films. The booths are harmonious (but unusual) shades of pale pink, lime green, and turquoise; the terrazzo floor is speckled with maroon; the wallpaper, with its fanciful drawings of ornate windows, is an homage to Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where the first Prada store opened in 1913. Predictably, Anderson obsessed over every detail—from the lace doilies under the cakes to the ’50s and ’60s songs on the vintage jukebox. The only overt reference to his own work is a Steve Zissou pinball machine, a nod to The Life Aquatic, which was shot in Italy.
“Each element—the food, the bathroom, the sugar packets—was under his control,” Prada said. Bar Luce is already a smash success, with long lines of people waiting to get in. Even Anderson conceded, “It would be a great place to write a movie.” Prada hinted that she is planning projects with other directors, like the Academy Award winner Alejandro González Iñárritu. “I am intrigued by movies,” the designer said. “And I would like the Fondazione to embrace cinema as an art form equal to any other. For me, movies are art brought to life. And that can be in a bar or a theater or anywhere. The possibilities are endless.”
Produced by Max Brun and Lola Toscani at Hi Production.