The sign of a good architect is one who listens, understands material, understands business, respects the context, and is able to design at any scale. In September of 2018, Prada collaborated with three architects during Milan Fashion Week: Elizabeth Diller, Cini Boeri, and Kazuyo Sejima. Prada asked the architects to create handbags that would be useful to the contemporary woman without losing any of the elegance the brand is known for.

The two bags designed by Diller follow themes of nutrition, work, and safety. One bag has a pocket for sandwiches, since airline food seems to get pricier by the month. It also has a pocket for a sketchpad, for the designer who encounters in-flight inspiration and wants to draw before arriving at her destination. The other bag is a life vest that can turn into a raincoat. One would hope that the plane has enough life vests without you needing to provide your own, but depending on the situation, it can never hurt to have more than one. Even if nothing serious happens and the traveller simply forgets her umbrella, at least she knows she’s covered.

A Prada bag designed to be an in-flight pillow.

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Boeri’s bag has adjustable parts so that the user can make changes depending on her needs at a given moment. If the trip is for leisure with the family, the bag can be adjusted to keep key items on hand for the kids. For business trips, it is equally effective. This bag was made to look similar to Prada’s existing nylon bag.

A black nylon Prada bag.

Sejima designed two bags for the travelling businesswoman. One of the bags could be converted into a neck pillow, which would be just as useful during a short flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco as it would be for a trip between Los Angeles and Sydney. It also comes with an eye mask to help the passenger enjoy her sleep more beautifully. The other bag has a cluster of pockets for the woman who wants to keep the contents from becoming disorganized.

What the bags created by all three of these architects have in common is practicality. They conceived of the many ways that women could use such products and then designed bags to reflect that. When designing a building, architects must first understand the context and the client. The context describes the situation, and the client has needs and wants that they want addressed in a space. Then, there is the understanding of material. At the end, there is a product in the built environment reflective of all these layers. What these three architects show us is that at any level, the same principles for designing a handbag hold true, and so do the results.

Photos courtesy of Document Journal