Silhouettes. Raf Simons AW21

Raf Simons‘ latest collections are more straightforward and easier in approach – yet they have that elusive spark that makes the designer’s work so attractive. For autumn-winter 2021, Simons stated his simple mission: “The collection is about things I love – things I have always loved, that are always there in every collection, in the processes behind it, and the clothes.” This season, silhouettes loosen and expand, almost magnetically propelling away from the body rather than clinging to it. The quilted A-line coats, some layered with puffy vests, and gigantic mushroom cap knits with strass brooches and dot patterns must be the largest garments he has ever offered. Wearing them with relaxed, gently flared trousers, the models look like atomic clouds, their clothing the electrons circling their forms but never touching them. The best part of big, baggy, enveloping clothing is that it really does look good on everyone.  In addition to the over-sized silhouette, Simons has also vastly expanded the collection of small, wantable things that hover around his garments. Ivory runner boots with a pastel gum heel are back, while a vast range of teenage-looking jewelry – hearts, logos, and dangly rib cage earrings – accompanies the clothing. The funniest baubles must be the skeleton hand bangles, fixed high on models’ arms. What I loved most is the dynamic colour palette – bubble-gum pink, pea-green, plastic-yellow, baby-blue… delightful! Simons chose six words to title this collection: ataraxia, equanimity, dichotomy, synchronicity, allegiance, devotion. Peacefulness is the big story, even amidst the techno-medical disasters of our world. Keeping the balance is always a good idea.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Easy Opulence. Prada AW21

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.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Mystery. Prada AW21

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.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Look(s) – Prada SS21

I knew I would end up being obsessed with the new Prada, co-designed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. The nylon wrap-coats from the show (which we’ve all seen live-streamed from Milan back in September), with utilitarian, triangle-shaped pocket on the back, yet draped and cut in a lady-like, statuesque silhouette, are the definition of contemporary elegance and a sharp exercise in refinement.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.