Prada, that most Milanese of fashion brands, is hot again. I don’t say this because of its front row – Scarlett Johansson, Wes Anderson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Vincent Cassel are good gets in that they’re not promiscuous in their show attendance – nor because turnover is at a record €3.74 billion, nor because of the legions of young fans screaming outside. That all helps, for sure. But most crucially, after some questionable collections, Raf Simons, who joined Miuccia Prada as co-creative director in 2021, seems to have worked out his place in the jigsaw puzzle.
It couldn’t have been easy for either the 74-year-old owner/designer Prada, or the incomer (via Jil Sander, his own label and Dior) Simons, 55. But they’ve found their modus operandi.
Prada’s strength has always been about serving up the sneaky goal. This time that happened with outerwear inspired by Barbour, a tailored utility jumpsuit, and a whole lot more.
This being Prada, those functional jackets weren’t worn with jeans and wellies but metallic fringed pencil skirts or sheer pencil skirts (with big black knickers on full display). And the collars weren’t corduroy but leather.
It’s possible images of Alexa Chung have lodged in the subconscious of Prada and Simons. Neither designer tends to cite specific muses, but in this show there was at least one other: the Hitchcock heroine, who could also be spotted at Fendi, where she acquired wrist-length leather gloves in delectable shades of orange or yellow.
Fendi’s clothes were deluxe and well executed, but seemed rather literal compared with Prada’s floaty pastel sheath dresses. These weren’t quite like any floaty pastel sheath dresses you may have seen before because of the opalescence of the fabric. They’d be dreamy and daring on a modern bride.
Proportions, make-up, hair – none of it’s ever quite what you’d expect at Prada, even when you expect the unexpected.
The translucent goop that dripped from the ceiling created a liquid screen down the centre of the catwalk that made everything look even more warped. Biodegradable? Don’t hold your breath. But it’s a useful metaphor for why Prada remains one of the most interesting labels around. It has a skewed take on everything, and that’s catnip for those who don’t like their luxury too straight.
When the clothes could be viewed straight on, the intricate craftsmanship could be seen more clearly – the teeny silver beading on a black or burgundy chiffon dresses being a case in point. Whether this justifies the hike in prices across Prada’s range is debatable. The military-style cropped wool jumpers that are in store right now cost £1,700 – but that’s what happens when a brand repositions itself next to Dior and Chanel.
If Prada’s 30 years as a leading creative force were simply down to a bag of tricks and lavish detailing, other brands would have copied it more successfully. The fact is, Miuccia Prada has the knack of making the bourgeois seem faintly subversive and edgy, but also beautiful. Take those colour-pop satin mules. With their mid-height heels and odd, elongated toes, they’re the definition of a shoe you don’t need but which many will have to have.
Giorgio Armani doesn’t want Emporio Armani, his diffusion line, to be edgy or subversive. Interestingly, he riffed on some of the same ideas as Prada: jumpsuits, pastels, shorts, bombers (in sequins) and a sheer, organza-like fabric.
He also had silverised jackets (silver is taking over from gold in Milan) and shorts (which seem to be taking over from trousers). If you want a précis of trends from Milan’s Fashion Week, they’re all here.