When Miuccia Prada presented her Spring 2012 collection last September, the words on everyone’s lips were “Hot Wheels.” The heels of several pairs of shoes trailed eye-popping bursts of flames that nodded at the toy car company’s classic logo, but the connection ran deeper, down to the heart of the bright colors and riotous prints that popped with a sense of futuristic optimism that felt very removed from our somber, dreary times. As in her concurrent men’s collection that combined boisterous golf stylings with a hint of Elvis Presley, Prada was pulling from the longstanding European fascination with iconic American imagery, particularly that from the middle of the last century, when Hollywood films and television began their dominance of global culture.
It only seems right, then, that the Italian house recently collaborated on its “Parallel Universes” project with Vahram Muratyan, an artist and graphic designer with a similar talent for bold visions and cheerful colors. Muratyan, an Armenian who has made Paris his adopted home, had a surprise hit earlier this year with his book Paris vs. New York, which offered side-by-side comparisons—complete with strong graphic imagery that felt retro in a very contemporary way—of the defining pillars of life in each city, pitting baguette vs. bagel, croque-monsieur with hot dog, and Jean-Luc Godard against Woody Allen.
For “Parallel Universes,” which launched today on Prada’s website, Muratyan created a series of charming illustrations that bring a surrealistic, Alice in Wonderland-type playfulness to Prada’s spring accessories. One bejeweled lace-up wobbles like an earring amid a woman’s inky mane, a red sports car speeds across the top of one pair of sunglasses, a man tees off from the bridge of another. In the opener, the gleaming plastic tail light affixed to a wedge heel scribbles the title of the collaboration as if dashed off in red lipstick. The project serves as a reminder, always necessary, not to take fashion—or life itself, for that matter—too seriously. The short animations are a fitting complement to the bold cheer of the shoes, handbags, and glasses, each a meticulously glowing study in whimsy and nostalgia.