Prada’s Ocean and Climate Village event in Qingdao nurtures China’s ‘ocean generation’

From outer space to the ocean depths, Prada’s progressive vision extends well beyond fashion.

The Italian luxury house — the hottest fashion brand on Lyst’s Q1 2023 Index (sister brand Miu Miu took that title in Q3 2023) — is increasingly driving conversation and change across diverse spheres of society.

Prada presented its Ocean and Climate Village exhibition at the Qingdao Haitian Center, its first foray outside of Italy, on October 14 and 15, 2023. The Chinese coastal city of Qingdao was chosen as the event’s location as it is home to prestigious marine research centers and an active community of ocean science professors.

The exhibition is part of Sea Beyond, an educational program developed by the Prada Group and Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC/Unesco) to raise public awareness of sustainability and ocean preservation among young generations. Sea Beyond won the Oceans Award at the Sustainable Fashion Awards 2022, organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion in collaboration with the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI).

The Ocean and Climate Village exhibition in Qingdao

The Ocean and Climate Village exhibition was created in 2021 to offer an engaging journey for children and young people to learn more about the importance of ocean conservation and explore the link between oceans and the climate. Dubbed the “ocean generation”, these future leaders are key to driving change. Of course, aligning with the values of young consumers is also significant, as this influential segment is set to contribute 70 percent of luxury spending by 2025, according to Bain & Co.

The Ocean & Climate Village exhibition traveled outside Italy for the first time to Qingdao, China. Photo: Prada

The China edition, enriched with localized content, attracted more than 5,000 visitors over two days in Qingdao. Twenty-one young biologists from local marine institutes volunteered as guides, leading visitors through five subject areas: the ocean planet; a changing climate; focus: China case study; marine biodiversity and ecosystems; and solutions for the ocean we want. The subjects were brought to life for young minds through interactive games, marine video characters, and virtual reality.

Animated characters and local marine biologists engaged children throughout the educational journey. Photo: Prada

Workshops for kids aged six to 12, held in partnership with the UCCA Foundation for Art and Education, guided kids to learn about the sea and its state of health in a dialogue between creativity and science.

The Ocean and Climate Village exhibition was first held in Italy at the Triennale in Milan (October 2021), then transferred to the Arsenale in Venice (March 2022) and Castel dell’Ovo in Naples (March 2023). The Prada Group took part in all editions via the Sea Beyond educational program. Bringing the event to China demonstrates Prada’s commitment to one of its most dynamic markets and the importance of its localized sustainability strategy in connecting with young generations and ensuring a better future for all.

Supporting scientific research and tangible solutions 

In June this year, Sea Beyond announced that it is extending its scope beyond education to support scientific research and humanitarian projects. In conjunction with the youth-oriented exhibition, the Qingdao event provided a valuable opportunity to gather top minds from China and around the world to further the discussion about tangible solutions for ocean protection. 

Prada Ambassador Li Xian, who is also a PADI global youth ocean ambassador, took part in panel discussions along with representatives from IOC/Unesco, UCCA Group, the See Foundation, First Institute of Oceanography, Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), and the UN Decade Collaborative Centre on Ocean-climate Nexus and Coordination.

The thematic panel discussion gathered marine scientists, oceanographic explorers, and environmental advocates to discuss tangible ocean protection solutions. Photo: Prada

“Scientists develop knowledge that cannot stay purely in academic circles but should be used by society as a whole […] to move forward towards ocean sustainability. We need to act urgently,” said Senior IOC/Unesco Programme Officer Francesca Santoro during the panel discussion. 

“As a public figure, I hope to pass the voice of the ocean onto more and more people, helping them understand, encouraging them to join, and sparking their enthusiasm for the ongoing project of marine conservation,” said Prada Ambassador Li Xian. The actor and diving enthusiast added that on a recent dive in Hainan province, there was so much waste plastic in the ocean that it overfilled the garbage bags the volunteers had prepared in just 20 minutes.   

Prada Ambassador Li Xian speaks during the opening Ocean and Climate Village panel discussion in Qingdao. Photo: Prada

Manager of See Foundation’s Marine Conservation Projects, Sui Haidong, chimed in on local marine protection initiatives over the past year, including rehabilitating more than 25,000 hectares of critical marine ecosystems, safeguarding 350 Chinese white dolphins, and releasing 100 sea turtles back into the wild.

Meanwhile, Yang Guangbing, Associate Research Fellow from the First Institute of Oceanography, MNR, updated the forum on Chinese scientific progress saying: “We hope to use the ‘digital ocean’ method — a technology that reproduces the ocean environment in a computer — to calculate and output various elements that affect ocean noise, and help to better understand and manage it.” 

The opening forum provided a valuable opportunity to share new technology advancements and ideas between China and the world. It epitomizes Prada’s mission to connect science and society to drive a more sustainable future. 

A commitment to weaving sustainability into Prada’s brand culture

Since 2019, Prada has been fashioning itself into a greener luxury brand as an integral part of the group’s sustainability strategy. In 2020, Prada Group and Unesco partnered on their first education outreach initiative related to ocean awareness and sustainable fashion production practices, which was delivered to select secondary schools in 10 cities around the world, including Shanghai. 

In January this year, the two partners ran a program of outdoor lessons in Venice for 120 preschool children, called “The Kindergarten of the Lagoon.” Meanwhile, Prada Group’s 14,000 employees worldwide have also received ocean literacy training through the AWorld app, the official platform selected by the UN to encourage sustainability. Prada Group and Unesco–IOC also supported the digitization of the Muma–Milazzo Sea Museum in 2022 so visitors from around the world can access its unique vision of harmony between man and sea.

Earlier this year, Prada ran a program of outdoor lessons for preschool children in Venice called “The Kindergarten of the Lagoon.” Photo: Prada

To continue these education initiatives, Prada Group announced that from July this year, 1 percent of Prada Re-Nylon revenue will be donated to sustain and develop the Sea Beyond project on an ongoing basis. The Prada Re-Nylon collection, made from 100 percent recycled nylon from landfills and the ocean, launched in 2019 with a capsule collection of bags for men and women, and has since been expanded into a full line of ready-to-wear, accessories, and footwear.

The next generation of Prada leadership, Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group Head of CSR, is driving the brand’s sustainability mission. Photo: Prada

As Prada itself prepares a soft transition to the next generation of leadership — 34-year-old Lorenzo Bertelli, current Prada Group CSR Head, and son of Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli — the Italian luxury house has followed up its biggest-ever year in 2022 with further growth in the first two quarters of 2023. Retail sales in Asia-Pacific — its largest global market — rose 21 percent YoY in the first half of 2023 to 716 million euros ($800 million), driven by mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The brand’s renewed mission to act as a “driver of change for the planet, people, and culture” is perhaps its most impressive fashion statement of all.