Photo Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Pietro D’Aprano/Getty Images, Estrop/Getty Images, Prada
Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons are experts at showing us what reality is in high fashion. There is no “past” in their Prada collections, no obvious references to Zelda and Scott on the Riviera, and no obvious meaning in their shapes beyond what you can see. At the same time, their designs fully fill the bill by moving the needle forward.
Their latest collection, which was shown at the Prada Foundation in Milan on Thursday, was the simplest since they began working together more than two years ago. The atmosphere was that of a panopticon, a series of darkened rooms lined with black construction paper in which several cells had been punched out to frame small video screens. These and the entire show concept were the work of director Nicolas Winding Refn (Ride, Valhalla Rising).
Aside from the set and the mostly red glow of the screens, I couldn’t quite make out how Refn was in things, but it didn’t matter. From the very first models in tight-fitting overalls in shades of gray and beige, with simple raincoats and a rough housewife Pumps, I felt like I was in a movie. There was no particular film playing in my head. Rather, I simply saw a girl – Isabelle Huppert, if you must – clutching the front of her coat as she walked down an empty European street alone at night.
Prada and Simons’ ability to build an image without a constructed narrative goes beyond a movie scene. Since the spring 2023 collections began in New York, the all-encompassing theme has been the open expression of sexuality. There was the sublime version of Francesco Risso by Marni under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn and the cheap, thoughtless way of Tom Ford that served to objectify women. Simons and Prada didn’t actually show much. (No lingerie parade — unless you count a bra or two and some full-cut black panties.) Instead, the eroticism was alluded to through the fabrics, colors, and what Simons called “mistake gestures.”
This meant, for example, slip dresses and shifts that appeared to be torn at the side slit. Most of the dresses had the double effect of a white underlayer – probably a pair of slips. In any case, the thin white border enhanced the illusion of a tear. There were skirts and mini dresses that looked crumpled, like a well-worn bed, or with a slightly ruffled hemline, as if the person had hastily dressed after sex or hadn’t bothered to undress at all.
It is noticeable that when the designers started discussing this collection, they started from a very different point of view.
“I remember it very well,” Simons said backstage after the show.
“He said, ‘Miuccia, why don’t we do decorations?'” Prada continued.
“Because we were so very into reality,” he said.
“It should be more creative,” she says.
But aside from some fabric bodices adorning a group of slim, white cotton jersey dresses, the dresses are coolly understated. That’s the most important thing about the collection. In the wake of the pandemic, many fashion companies have returned to previous production levels and there is a renewed sense of excess – from other industries as well. It may be an illusion because Prada produces a lot, but these clothes contradict that visual reality. They’re strong, raw and handsome – nothing more than a trio of dresses in navy, faded green and red-orange with simple floral motifs and chunky slits. By the way, the dresses are made of paper-based fabric (which felt like silk to me).
Crucially, Simons used the word intimacyNot sex or sensualityto describe the driving thought of the collection. He said: “The world has changed so much and the relationship you have with the outside world is in a way physical.” Isolating the worst stages of the pandemic has certainly made people more aware of their home environment. And I think he and Prada expressed that in a weird, moving way, not only in the nightgowns (both designers have shown a penchant for nightgowns in the past), but also in novel fabrics — notably a cloudy-white, gauzer-like one Fabric for coats and layered separates and the hauntingly austere black dresses with simple trains that ended the show.
Photo: Pietro D’Aprano/Getty Images
For a no-nonsense if somewhat lethargic Max Mara show, creative director Ian Griffiths alluded to Renée Perle, a muse of photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue (who captured the glamorous and sporty in France and England in the early part of the last century). , and modernist architect and designer Eileen Gray. The mostly linen attire, with cropped knit tops, had a classic feminine appeal, but the winners were Griffiths’ slightly faded sailor pants and sundresses in washed cotton drills—the so-called bleu de travail of French work clothes.
Photo: Estrop/Getty Images, Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Jeremy Scott’s Moschino was all hot air. Just kidding. The designer took the French couture styles that have become ingrained in our memories — the chic Saint Laurent pantsuit with a snappy straw hat, the Chanel cardigan — and decked them out with inflatable beach toys. Need a party stole made from an orange raft? A pair of sleeves that look like pinball? Why not? Take away the pool paraphernalia and the attire is cute and chic. But the collection is worth a single last picture of a model seemingly connected to her candy-colored hoses and toys. Fashion is folly. She might as well have a sign over her head that says, “Swim at your own risk.”