A few brands are staging real-life shows in Milan this season, but Prada once again opted for a digital format to communicate its latest men’s collection. The output consisted solely of a video; no pre-recorded chat between co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons; no Q&A with their fanbase.
That made the experience a bit cold and a bit weird. Without a stated rationale, a Prada collection loses half its charm, as one is left with the clothes, but misses the traditional expounding of the concepts that underpin them, as outlandish and forced they sometimes come across.
The decision was clearly intentional: this was a product-driven outing, strong on rolled up shorts, short boiler suits, oversized tailored jackets, stunning overcoats and multifunctional bucket hats with built-in, logo-shaped coin purses and sunglasses. Guests at the Milan presentation could actually see the looks up close on mannequins after the screening.
The video itself was another story: a stompy, techno-powered walk through a claustrophobic red tunnel — very Gaspard Noé's Irreversible if you ask me — leading to a final release into the air of a rocky Sardinian beach. Metaphorical? For sure, and in quite a literal way by Prada standards. The desire to reconnect with the outside world, and nature specifically, was an urge neither Miuccia nor Raf could escape.
The accompanying press notes were sparse, reading only: tunnel of joy, urgency of feelings, utopia of normality. While “urgency of feelings” was a bit hard to grasp — Prada is a chilly world, and models are not actors — the “utopia of normality” and “tunnel of joy” came across.
Shorts aside, most of the looks were deceptively normal. But what hit home was how quintessentially Prada the collection felt, so much so that one kept wondering where the hand of Raf Simons was. Almost a year into his collaboration with Mrs Prada, it increasingly seems as though Simons acts as more of an editor than a designer, excavating and remixing the brand’s repertoire to fit the moment.
This makes sense, given the strength of the code Miuccia Prada has set over the years. With Raf’s remix, however, something unfortunate may be happening: the Prada man, always a boy in the process of sexual awakening, risks turning into a rather sexless kid. That’s a major shift: an injection of infantilism that makes the Prada man feel rather neutered. Escaping this trap would make the goings more exciting.