It’s not always super clear, however, how Prada collections actually come together. How you interpret any fashion show has a lot to do with the intent of the designer, and Mrs. Prada and Simons (who began working together in 2020) don’t give a lot of interviews. Even when Mrs. Prada does speak, she can be cerebral to the point of inscrutability, introducing ideas and then the opposite of those ideas. She thrives in contradiction.
But after this show, Mrs. Prada revealed something interesting and potentially revealing about their process. Perhaps even more revealing than she intended.
“As always, first we do things, and after we find the reason,” she said. “A few days before the show, we analyze what we are doing, finding a title.”
Which might sound funny from a designer renowned as a singular genius. But it’s a frank (albeit brief) insight into her unique, non-linear creative process. And it reminded me of something Koolhaas told me in 2022. Describing how he and his firm AMO create the sets, the architect said of the designers, “They give us hints and suggest certain themes. So for instance, 20 years ago, there was a show where Miuccia Prada said: a little bit twenties, a little bit Charleston, and maybe some old-fashioned bicycles.” Mrs. Prada is reputed to start her own collections in the same abstract manner, which is then refined through conversations with the design team into its final statement. Up to, apparently, a few days before the show.
The tension between man and nature, control and instinct came through clearly. The show opened with a series of models wearing ties and contrast-collar banker shirts. Some wore blazers with rounded shoulders in heavy wools and tweeds, but these were no usual corporate warriors. On their heads were knit swimming caps, one of many nods to water throughout. “Most people’s screensaver is nature, but then you know you sit in this very synthetic human made environment,” said Simons. “There were a million references,” he continued. “There was the businessman, the working man, the thinking man, and how does that sit with nature, which is the biggest contrast, in a way.”
As Simons explained it, these choices are guided by feeling rather than strict conceptual boundaries. “I think we start a lot of collections lately instinctively,” he said.
For her part, Mrs. Prada was considering our emotional connection to the changing seasons, and all the attendant modern anxieties. “What was most important was the relationship with seasons, that it was meant for going outside,” said Mrs. Prada. “Because usually [in my collections] there are no seasons—naked in winter, super covered [in summer]. But now I feel the need to be attached to something so basic for human nature like seasons. So the clothes relate with the outside, with weather, with reality.”
On the subject of climate change, Mrs. Prada repeatedly demurred—“There are so many political things attached, but we don’t want to enter in that”—but the show included plenty of the mid-season layering pieces that are becoming more essential thanks to our weird new weather. Some models emerged in trench coats cut in skinny columns, and a couple of coats came with balaclava-like hood attachments, open to the suit-and-tie below but tightly tied at the neck with scarves. Bright cardigans layered over contrasting sweaters conjured a warm fall afternoon.
The sketch was further filled in with knit long johns in funky, very-Prada colors—Simons cited the “very specific outfits” of the Elfstedentocht, a Dutch ice skating festival—worn with top coats. Simons listed more of the million references: “Man and water, man and the sea, a river, rain as water, swimming, human activity in relation to water whether it’s sporty or not sporty, a walk in the countryside or somebody who has a job like a mariner.” The country came through in heavy tweed trousers (an original form of rain protection) and canvas barn jackets, the sea in captain’s hats and long officer coats made of hand-distressed leather.
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