The season’s biggest runway debut in Milan was Raf Simons in tandem with Miuccia Prada, a show staged Friday afternoon CET time in the brand’s foundation, and simultaneously in Shanghai.
Raf actually began his collaboration with Miuccia two years ago, and the pair have now unveiled several collections digitally. But due to Covid this was their first live catwalk show as a duo: ultimately, the true test of any designer’s mettle.
Little doubt about it, this was an impressive performance and organizational feat. Banks of video screens in the Deposito of the Fondazione Prada projected live images of Pudong skyscrapers before the two shows – with exactly the same series of looks – began six time zones apart.
“No one had ever before tried this in history, it seemed so complicated. But I said that after this Covid experience we had to learn from it and try something different,” explained the normally voluble Miuccia backstage, before politely pleading fears of contamination and declining to speak about her inspiration. At which point, a communications director directed editors to read a press release with quotes from the two designers. These were of such entirely anodyne and over-edited prose that it would be unfair to subject any reader to them.
On the actual catwalk, the show opened with some raffishly cut leather jackets – simple blazers with elevated breast-pockets, rock star bombers, posh Hells Angels biker looks, sleek spy trenches and Humphrey Bogart truck driver looks. However, for a brand whose DNA was always about arty perfection, their distressed finish reminded one of Diesel. Quite frankly, we never imagined Miuccia Prada as a fan of Bon Jovi.
Almost every third look came with a meter-long train, cut so small it looked like an exaggerated belt. Scores of looks featured the upside-down Prada triangle logo, while one dress – a real stunner in black – even incorporated the shape into its neckline, while its deep V gorge back showed a belt at the base of the spine. It was rather magical.
There was talk of the theme of trains backstage, and the sense of curvy speed was apparent in several ribbed knit tops and dresses, as well as in some sassy black leather minis topped by silk blouses, gathered like locomotive pistons. Frequently, though, the mood jarred – as with a very odd, Valentino-red, guipure sheath, cut mid-calf, that was a bit of a shambles.
To sum up, a mixed bag of a collection, even with some great highlights, where the cast bravely marched around an undulating maze of runways with scores of varying step sizes. The fact no one fell, as two publishers did pre-show, was quite an accomplishment.
Also, given the movement toward inclusivity in fashion and wider society, it did jar that the entire cast in Shanghai was Asian, while in Milan it was very much multiracial. Simons’ hand was also evident in the casting – a younger, skinnier selection of models than one historically associates with Prada.
Throughout Milan, one finds ads in bus stops showing young women laughing uproariously with the tagline, “Feels Like Prada.” Making the brand previously known as the natural destination of brainy, intellectual, independent women into the latest Milanese house desperate to lower the age of their target market