Finally, my heart skipped a beat for the first time this fashion month. Prada‘s autumn-winter 2023 collection – entitled “Recycling Beauty” – was a strikingly powerful take on simplicity and the idea of uniform, with a twist of much-needed optimism. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons have reached full synthesis, as this collection takes the unmistakable Prada look to a new dimension. The white lily pin, folded origami style from humble cotton, that came with Prada’s invitation looked like hope for the future. That notion seemed to be confirmed backstage, where Miuccia and Raf talked about the act of caring. “Mainly what I care about now is to give importance to what is modest, to value modest jobs, simple jobs, and not only extreme beauty or glamour,” Prada said. Nurses’ whites got a thorough consideration, transformed into long-line shirt dresses complete with short trains, and a trio of capes could’ve been lifted off a World War II era recruitment poster for the army nurse corps. Military uniforms proved ripe for elevation by reinterpretation, too. Parkas – never seen such gracious and refined interpretation of this type of jacket – came with elegant Watteau backs or were puffed into couture-like cocoons. Army shirts and ties tucked into high-fitting tapered trousers looked definitive; the pants are apt to make women who’ve embraced the full-leg shape on so many other runways seriously rethink their closets. On the skirt front, there was much more variety: minis, pencils, and voluminous swing 1950s skirts all made appearances, some accentuated with more of those origami fabric flowers. This was the flipside of the concept, Simons explained backstage: turning the embellishments you see on wedding dresses, which are another sort of uniform of care, into everyday attire. The simple crewneck sweaters in camel and charcoal gray they were paired with were effective partners in that regard. The shirtless blazers with detachable dickey-style collars and the pillowy white down-stuffed puffers and miniskirts were evolutions of ideas they proposed in their menswear show a month ago. There too the project was to enhance reality, rather than to indulge in runway theatrics. This persuasive, deeply moving collection provided much food for thought, and a heaping serving of new things to want to wear.
Collages by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Whenever Prada delivers a collection this stern and reductive, you can expect a recession, economic crisis or a global disaster to happen in the near future. But since the last couple of years feel like a 24/7 state of being at verge of the world’s end, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ extremely minimal and modest-looking outing might foreshadow the ultimate dystopia. Or maybe not? Maybe these are investment pieces for a yet unknown utopia?
The collection was entitled “Let’s Talk About Clothes“. The show was held in a Fondazione space pared back as never before, right down to its poured concrete bones. Above the guests’ head was installed a sunken roof of plasterboard in the same sludgy tone, about a meter above their heads. During the show it slowly rose, until sinking again at the finale. Clothes-wise, it was really about clothes. Of their recent dialogues, Raf Simons said: “we talk about how we want to work really hard to make clothes that can have a reality in this world, but which on the other hand still push it, which have a fashion point of view.” To achieve that they worked on a series of archetypal masculine garments in which they tried simultaneously to transmit both minimalism along with comfort and warmth. The first cluster of looks presented minutely-articulated variations – three-buttoned or two-, single-breasted or slightly doubled – in a kaleidoscope of charcoals. The cut was slim but floating, both to cut and physique. Instead of shirting the models wore detachable collars in various patterned fabrics, a motif that returned throughout the collection. These crisp cottons were the same used for the pillowcases, with accompanying pillows, sent out along with the show invitations. They were there to echo as “a Prada gesture” the floating sailor collars we had seen in past house collections for both men and women. The jackets were suddenly replaced with two blazers in suede, before a cocoon-like top – prefigured by those pillows – that more resembled something to lay your head on than slip your body into. An equivalent piumino version of Prada’s vaunted vest followed directly. Two (collarless) engorged and pillowish MA-1 bombers in the classic orange-lined colorways were next. These were the first in what Simons called “the stereotypes” of outerwear, a series that included a parka, a donkey jacket, and a duffel coat. They were cut extra-long, like formal feminine evening dress, and then quickly repeated in radically foreshortened equivalents. The collection continued its unfolding with a dialogue between color, texture, and form articulated through slim fit pants worn over colored cardigans and top coats shot through with retro-futuristic go-faster panels of contrasting and dynamic tones. The models carried totes, seemingly containing water bottles that were sometimes puckered in texture like cast-steel industrial flooring. At the end the white collar uniform of the introduction was supplanted by a modern version of a blue-collar equivalent; suede work aprons transformed into dresses, sometimes worn under topcoats. These pieces spoke of several assumptions at once relating to work, class, and gender.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!