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There’s a mysterious Prada store sitting in the middle of the West Texas desert — here’s how it got there

The mock Prada store is stocked with $80,000 worth of real goods.

Prada Marfa, a fake Prada store in the middle of the desert

Photo Credit: Prada Marfa

The middle of the West Texas desert might be the last place you would expect to find a Prada store — and that’s exactly what the artists behind Prada Marfa intended. The merchandise inside Prada Marfa is real, but the store itself is not. Instead of selling Prada items, it is intended as a commentary on Western materialism. 

And the structure is biodegradable, meaning that over time it will, in theory, become one with nature.

What is Prada Marfa?

Designed by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Prada Marfa appeared on the roadside of U.S. Route 90 in 2005. It was constructed using the materials and style of the surrounding region — Elmgreen and Dragset used a biodegradable adobe-like material — with their stated intention being that the fake store would eventually erode back into the earth itself.

Although the project is theoretically in some ways critical of materialism and high-end luxury goods, it was, interestingly, created in cooperation with Prada head Miuccia Prada, who allowed the artists to use the brands’ name and logo and donated $80,000 worth of goods to stock it with. Apparently, any press is good press.

Since its opening, Prada Marfa has been vandalized several times, with people covering it with graffiti and breaking in to steal the merchandise. 

The artists first responded by upping the security of the structure and taking steps such as removing the bottoms from the handbags and making all the shoes right-footed — rendering them less desirable to steal. But they have since adopted a more hands-off approach.

What is Prada Marfa criticizing?

Although the artists have not gone into too much detail, the project has been described as “a surrealist commentary on Western materialism.”

As far as Western materialism and its relationship to fashion goes, there is plenty to criticize. 

Although Prada has made a push toward sustainability in recent years — with its Re-Nylon clothing line made out of regenerated nylon that comes mostly from plastics taken out of landfills or oceans — the fashion industry as a whole is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. 

The industry uses more than 20 trillion gallons of water each year, pollutes waterways with harmful synthetic dyes, and goes through 430 million barrels of oil annually to make polyester. Prada and other luxury brands have also been criticized for controversial labor practices.

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