Based on Chicago’s South Side, the three-year programme will provide financial support, mentorship, and more to diverse and emerging designers
Prada has announced a new partnership with the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, as part of its ongoing effort to spotlight more diverse artists and designers. Titled the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab (Dorchester Industries being the design and manufacturing department of Theaster Gates Studio), the programme will span three years and offer a platform to underrepresented artists of colour.
It will particularly invest in Black and brown creators working in the fields of fashion, furniture, industrial design, and graphic design. In an announcement posted to Instagram, Gates himself describes the Chicago-based, international project as an “effort to create a nucleus of design intelligence on the South Side”.
“The work of amplifying artists and designers of color has to be at the forefront of our leadership.”
“The premise is very, very simple,” he adds, in a statement given to WWD. “There are people formally trained or who have had a successful career but that are not connected to the fashion world or the creative industry.”
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The Experimental Design Lab, he says: “is an attempt to help people refine their skills, create a couple of significant projects and then deliver those folks to a larger network that creates more opportunities, leveraging myself and working with Prada to try and celebrate the amazing talent that lives in Black and brown communities but that is so often overlooked.”
Participating designers will be nominated by figureheads across fashion, art, and design, with the first set of awardees — estimated to range between eight and 15 participants — scheduled to be announced in October. Experimental Design Awards will also be given in recognition of “extraordinary creative potential”, offering financial support, mentorship, and creative opportunities.
Theaster Gates’ relationship with Prada stretches back almost a decade. “(Miuccia) Prada and her foundation have been one of the most important allies to artists in the world,” the artist says. In 2019, he was also became co-chair of the luxury house’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council alongside filmmaker Ava Duvernay.