Whenever Prada delivers a collection focused solely on all-time classics, it’s clear that some sort of recession is coming. If shopping for new clothes, no fashion-statement impulses – only rational choices. Investment pieces that will become a wardrobe staple: that’s exactly what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ spring-summer 2023 menswear collection is about. First, we’ve got reasonable suiting. It came black, skinny in the pant and cropped at the top of cowboy boots. Jackets were single or 1.5-breasted, cut slim and low. Then up popped eternal leather: frisson-making black double-zip short-shorts worn against sleeveless tops and coats. Shortly afterwards the shorts came accented with a series of striped rib knits. Next up were some leather-edged back-buttoned shirts in shopping bag checks, with craftily naïf ric-rac trims that echoed Prada’s pyramid cipher. There was a brief section of attractive washed denim. The shorts underpinned the looks. And of course, the coats – some in beige, some in naive gingham (a Miuccia classic, think autumn-winter 2013). The models were sometimes double-coated, sometimes single. According to the brand’s release, “choice” is the keyword behind the line-up. Said Mrs. Prada in her pre-quote: “So much that is the base is really a conceptual choice – a coat, jeans, a suit. They appear simple but are the result of a process, of choice – there are hundreds of coats, why is this the right one? It is a combination of a long process of design and decision, and then of instinct. It is a matter of style.” Adjacent on the page Simons was reported as saying: “The garments are classic, but their mix contradicts, making them exciting and new. There is leather against the body, then cotton on top – there’s a kind of anti-logic to the combination of the clothes, an oddness.” Kinky, corporate, normcore and craft – the ingredients in this menswear minestrone of a Prada collection looked pretty weird on the menu, but tasted fresh when seen on the flesh.
Last week, during my trip to Berlin, I finally had the chance to see Prada‘s spring-summer 2022 collection IRL at the brand’s flagship on Ku’damm. And, oh boy, these garments are so much better when you actually see them up close! The romance of up-scaled lace, the vibrance of neon silks, the beauty of vintage-y leathers. And of course, the masterful construction of each piece – which you truly comprehend once you touch them. “Seduction, Stripped Down” is the name Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons gave to their third, co-designed collection. In her notes, Prada said, “We thought of words like elegant – but this feels so old-fashioned. Really, it’s about a language of seduction that always leads back to the body. Using these ideas, these references to historical pieces, the collection is an investigation of what they mean today.” The historical ideas in question are the familiar tropes of womanhood, like bra cups and corsetry boning, made unconventional by how they were presented: on simple, even plain, sweaters or as details on denim coats. Duchesse satin sheaths read as almost demure until the dresses turn to reveal they are unbuttoned to the lower back, exposing peekaboo flashes of lingerie. The long evening column also got a rethink; it’s sliced above the knee, but a bow in back is extended to the floor. “That feels modern,” Simons stated in the collection’s press-notes. It really is!
Summer is coming so, so soon! How about a timeless Prada wardrobe reimagined, in hypercolor? Energetic and kinetic color – joyous, uplifting, free. Emerald, orange, vermillion, yellow – contrast with graphic black and white and soft greys. Motifs are direct – geometric stripes and bold checks, simple and linear. Tactile and precious silks, fine cashmeres, leather and kid mohair are used for relaxed styles expressive of summer – silk pyjamas, full skirts, abbreviated shorts and bra tops. Bodies are streamlined, dynamic, moving freely. Accessories are modern Prada archetypes – the Triangle handbag, baseball caps, bucket hats – recolored, therefore reenergized.
As Russia is invading Ukraine and Europe is at the brink of war, it’s really hard to look at the latest Milan Fashion Week collections. Suddenly, fashion’s frivolity feels ignorant and insensitive, and the smiley street-style faces make you wonder if there are two parallel realities existing simultaneously. Still, one can’t blame Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons for staging a fashion show yesterday, as if nothing wrong was going on the other side of the continent. How could they know that on the same day, Putin would commit a war crime? The situation is getting more and more turbulent with every hour, and as brands in Milan do business as usual (even though at least some symbolic gestures of solidarity would be more than welcomed and appreciated), who knows if this isn’t the last fashion month for a long time to come. Trying to stay hopeful, but I’m really terrified of what might happen next.
I wish the circumstances wouldn’t make this Prada line-up feel somehow unfortunate and badly timed. The collection is beautiful, yet will it make any sense in the near future? The designers’ offering started with a fitted white tank, triangular logo front-and-center, with a narrow just-below-the-knee skirt divided horizontally in different combinations. Kaia Gerber’s show-opener merged gray flannel, crushed black satin, and a crystal-dusted metallic mesh, but others were sheer to the waist, exposing the boy briefs that the models wore underneath. These pieces formed a foundation on top of which Prada and Simons showed simple Shetland wool sweaters and others that revived the label’s breakout “ugly” prints of the ’90s; mannish single-breasted jackets and double-breasted ones decorated on the upper arms with rings of faux fur or feathers; and oversized MA1s picked out with paillettes. Again, there was that emphasis on unlikely combinations, and the sense of import that kind of intentionality creates: making an occasion out of the everyday. “You want to live again, to be inspired. And to learn from the lives of people,” Prada said in a statement that was distributed after the show. The silhouette didn’t reach the extremes of the men’s collection last month, but the proportions – of black coat dresses draped with askew pearl necklaces, of leather trenches in black and shocking pink – were exaggerated. The shapes conveyed strength, not the decorum or daintiness that the lingerie foundation underneath might suggest. That message was underlined by the cast, which included models who walked Prada runways 20 years ago – Erin O’Connor, Liya Kebede, Elise Crombez, and Hannelore Knuts – amidst new faces like Euphoria‘s Hunter Schafer. As has become their practice, Prada and Simons were looking back at past Prada collections, embracing the Prada-ness. “I think of revolutionary moments in Prada’s history, and we echo them here,” Simons said in his statement. “There are never direct recreations, but there is a reflection of something you know, a language of Prada.” Scrolling through the archive to find the reference isn’t the point, though fashion obsessives will have lots to work with here. More interesting is how together they made something sort of implausible – like, say, a herringbone coat with that proportion-shifting acid green faux fur treatment on the sleeves – look intriguing.