For the first time, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons let some warmth and a sense of spontainety to their creative dialogue. The Prada man for spring-summer 2022 appears to be a slightly naive beach-boy, who wears his yellow windcheater (nothing underneath) and matching bucket-hat all day long. Which I instantly love, of course. As co-creative director Miuccia observed in a quote released shortly before the collection video: “A sense of the utopian, the ideal, of hope, positivity. To expose yourself to nature, to go to the beach – it’s freedom. It is utopian. That is really a primary need – an intellectual need, too.” This translated into a skin-heavy rendering of a reemergence that was tantamount to a rebirth. The film opened with the models negotiating a “meandering red tunnel”, ready for the world ahead, but not yet in it. Very directly we were presented with some of the key motifs of what looked like a commercially strong Prada suite: bucket hats with almond-shaped brims at the back (a bit British policeman’s helmet) with triangular logo pockets, and some with the awesome functionality of slits at the front to allow sunglasses to be slipped in them. Romper suits with turned-up short hems were presented in corporate-worker charcoal cotton or sailor-boy white, the latter printed with tattoo-ish nautical motifs including octopi, voluptuous mermaid/sirens, anchors and anchor fish. Around two minutes into the film, Prada’s boys finally hit the beach. The scenes were filmed at the south-eastern point of Sardinia, on the coast of Capo Carbonara, an area where the house is funding the reforestation of marine ecosystems. By coincidence, it is also where I’m booked to spend my summer holiday. It was in this setting that the presentation changed from formulaic runway walk into something more apparently spontaneous and free, in order to evoke an essence described by Raf Simons in his pre-show quote portfolio: “The primary feeling is one of joy. It’s almost like that memory of a child, the joy of a child going to the beach. The simplest and most honest of pleasures. In all its simpleness, it’s also something very meaningful and timeless.” Beach-ready were the floral-shorn terry hoodies, the skorts of course, the beautiful bucket bags in cracked leather and rowing stripe cotton drill, and those awesome hats. Away from the water, highlights included a biker jacket in yolk-yellow or show-set-red which felt like an unusual template here; double-waisted pants made to be worn loosely and tantalisingly adrift at the front; plenty of tailoring with (again) rolled up sleeves; and multiple full-look-izations of the skorts via teaming them with matching tank-tops. These looks seemed like summer iterations of the last-show long johns. “This collection and this show is very much about capturing that, the joy of the everyday. The notion that living your life can be a euphoric experience. Much joy can come out of something so simple: when times are complicated, we are searching for simple, direct joys. An innocence“, concluded Prada.
So… this is what arrived to my mailbox last week. Super thrilled to share thePrada spring-summer 2021 “Dialogues” book featuring the BIG conversation betweenMiuccia Prada, Raf Simons and the global audience. Each question is actual food for thought, and one of my answers is featured on the pages of this extraordinary concept. This Prada collection is contemporary fashion history moment, and receiving this beautiful portfolio (under the creative direction of Vogue Italia’s Ferdinando Verderi) is so, so major for me.
Miu Miu was one of the best things that happened this season. Since Miuccia Prada works with Raf Simons at Prada, she seems to have more spare time for the sister label, because the last couple of collections are just delightful. And the autumn-winter 2021 line-up is brilliant in many ways. First thing we know: Miuccia loves the mountains. “I remember being young, when it was hot, and you’d go skiing in your bikini,” she recalled in a digital press conference after her Miu Miu screening. “It looks strange, but in the end, it’s not.” Captured epically in high snow in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, her Miu Miu collection took those memories and feelings for the outdoors to the new extremes. Through a literal lens, it was the most obvious transition from indoor to outdoor dressing you could imagine: a code-switch between lingerie and skiwear. Figuratively, it was post-confinement psychology: a material outpouring of our mental state of undress and the compulsion to cover it up and put our best (and furriest) foot forward. Padded bustiers and bodices proposed alongside silk-satin slip dresses – some with aggressive spiky straps – conceived a kind of alpine lingerie (“For me, very sexy stuff,” said Prada) juxtaposed by mittens and mountain boots fit for a faux-fur yeti. “I walk a lot in the mountains and when it’s bad weather, it’s difficult,” Prada reflected. “Little by little, I realized what I was trying to say: bravery. The dream to do something that’s important and difficult. The clothes are not romantic but the spirit is.” Like animals emerging from hibernation, our return to normal is laden with anxiety, mainly because normal won’t be the normal we knew. As a result, our relationship with clothes will change. The collection offered methods to the madness in meetings between the two poles, like oversized ski suits rendered in dusty pastel boudoir satins, knitted balaclavas (that double as a face mask), girly and glamorous takes on Fair Isle jumpers, and the jumpsuits that Prada has been pushing in a big way this season. The show’s film climaxed in a bonfire ritual in the snow. It felt pagan, like a love letter to the nature the world seems to have reconnected with over the past year, and gained new respect for. “Nature is the one thing that heals you,” Prada said. “I love mountain adventures.” And we love when Miu Miu is oddly fantastic!
Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ joined vision for Prada starts to unravel. It’s elusive, enigmatic and far from straightforward – and what’s most important, exciting. Autumn-winter 2021 is the second full season coming from those two brilliant fashion minds, and while the debut left many hungry for more, the latest line-up has the virtual audience in awe. Adjusting to the idea that “normal” isn’t coming back took all of us longer than it probably should have. But whatever shape the world takes when we re-emerge, there’s a collective feeling of hope that’s new. At a small press conference after the Q&A (which featured Prada lovers and collaborators like Marc Jacobs, Hunter Schafer and Rem Koolhaas) Miuccia said, “optimism is mounting.” Reason? The inevitable brightening of moods as winter ends and spring begins, or the pleasures that Prada and Simons are finding in collaboration. “It feels natural,” Simons said of their partnership. “At the same time, of course, it’s challenging, but I expected that. And I wanted it to be, otherwise I wouldn’t have come.” Together, these factors produced a collection with a tantalizing sense of glamour. It glimmered most clearly in the rectangular double-sided wraps – paillettes on one side, faux fur on the other – that models clutched to their breasts in a gesture “of protection, but also of elegance.” One such wrap was worn over a matching black paillette dress which itself was layered over the second-skin jacquard knits that appeared in many of the looks. In its endorsement of these foundational knits, the collection was a showcase for the key way the pandemic is changing fashion. Ease is the flip side of elegance: In 2021, in contrast to the past, both are integral; and women seem unlikely to sacrifice the former for the latter. “Ease and movement were very important to us,” Simons confirmed. This is a positive development, especially because Prada and Simons were able to manage it while also reigniting a fashion spark that a year of online living has otherwise made dormant. A few of the compelling ways to celebrate our reemergence here included a drop-shoulder, puff-sleeve coat in electric yellow and green, a chesterfield in midnight sequins, and a clutch coat in faux fur. It’s easy opulence, fit for our times.
And just like that, we’ve got the second fruit of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ partnership at Prada – the autumn-winter 2021 collection for men. My first impressions are equal to the ones I had after their debut back in September: a cocktail of feelings. What hits first while watching the fashion show video is the pure mystery, something fashion has forgotten in the last couple of years. The set – a number of geometric chambers made of contrasting colours and textures – had you wonder if it reflects the indoors or outdoors. Or some sort of another dimension, maybe? The analogous sensation of contrasts (something Miuccia always loves) was delivered in the line-up: the oddest colour combinations that worked incredibly well, and clashing textures, from tactile camels and corduroys to synthetic PVC and nylons. Then, the question: who are those guys? Where are they heading to? In the post-show interview with selected students from all over the world, Simons highlighted that he and Miuccia aren’t working with themes. For them gestures, notions and the “unsaid” are much more important. And that keeps the mystery oozing from those characters, who in short video intervals are caught dancing to Plastikman’s soundtrack made specially for the show. Maybe they are raving in the post-COVID world where big gatherings are no longer remembered? As you see, the show sparks a fountain of questions (which don’t really need precise answers). For the clothes, there were some surprises, like knitted body-suits: those “long Johns”, as the designers called them, are body-hugging and “a little dangerous”. There was one take-away that felt distinctly Simons and new to Prada: the bomber jacket, a garment that’s present in Simons’ solo work since the beginning of his name-sake, Antwerp-based label. Another observation: of I course loved each of Miuccia’s men collections, but in the last couple of years there was something mature about them, very grown-up. And Simons, who’s forever youth-obsessed, balances that and invites a younger customer with some signature layered knits and outerwear. Good news: not a lot of logos this time, however, expect for the metal insignias on the patch of jackets and gloves (must-haves!). Similar to the womenswear show, which was like a tabula rasa, the men’s runway line-up featured all new models who had never appeared on a catwalk before. Some of them had home-cut, boyish bangs, just like Danny Torrance, the child character from Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic, The Shining. Who knows, maybe after alll Prada and Simons had that 1980 classic on their secret moodboard. The unsettling ambience of the show, the dramatic music, the unknown destination of the models, even some elements of the peculiar space… there might be some parallels with one of the greatest horrors in history (plus, we’ve seen Raf referring spooky film classics at Calvin Klein!). Summing up: Prada and Simons are warming up, and I’m sure with every season their dialogue will unfold even more intrigue.