The best moment in Prada’s Autumn 2021 virtual presentation for men was, according to Raf Simons, completely spontaneous. As models moved through a maze of rooms to the subtle techno swell of Richie Hawtin’s soundtrack, a couple of them started dancing, proper hands-in-the-air stuff, but all on their own, like a poignant reminder of everything lockdown was denying us: not just dance but the freedom of movement and physical connection. In the on-line press conference that followed that show, neither Simons nor Miuccia Prada felt it was appropriate to speculate about a new Roaring Twenties. “The moment of a creative renaissance is very far,” she said. “It’s not right to be exuberant,” he added.
What a difference a month makes! The women’s collection the duo launched on Thursday borrowed plenty from the men’s — the pinstripes, the stretch jacquards, the silhouettes (bodysuit, big parka, bigger bomber jacket) — and the presentation also appropriated the set and the soundtrackist. But the mood was very different. Yes, there was an outbreak of dancing, but the models were together, strobe-lit like they were in a club. And they were opulently swathed in sequins and huge fake fur coats, or clutching fur stoles that felt less like protective swaddle than jazz-baby swellegance. “Introducing elegance into reality,” was Miuccia’s take. Given their earlier reticence, this felt more like a surge of irrational exuberance on her and Raf’s part.
“Something is mounting,” Raf sort-of-agreed. “More excitement, more desire for movement and action and new energy. We all need to go out in the world again.”
“Now it’s really happening,” Miuccia added.
It was lovely to hear that. Even lovelier to see their budding optimism translated into a collection that reinforced Prada’s sly, signature mix of intelligence and sex: black-clad sobriety, re-nyloned even, lined in multi-patterns — Nouveau, Deco, that damn wallpaper — or trimmed in acid-tinged fur. The show notes made elevated claims about fusions between disparate themes, masculine and feminine, but Raf distilled that grandiosity to something more basic about making umbilical connections between men and women. He pointed to the last three looks — pinstripes, turtleneck, classic topcoat — which he claimed had been rendered feminine by a simple change of fabric. (When I checked, I saw three sumptuously sequined coats that would look good on anyone, although perhaps the sequence was off on line.)
After the show, there was a roundtable of Prada-adjacent creatives, including the architect Rem Koolhaas. The uniqueness of Miuccia and Raf’s creative union clearly continues to tantalise people. Asked about it, Koolhaas commented that the exciting collaboration is the one that lets you enter a place you’ve never been before. I do love the notion of Miuccia leading Raf into uncharted territory. The vice versa is even more ticklish. But I think that really still lies ahead, when the ebbing of the pandemic allows a collaboration unchecked by the restrictions that still dog us all.
For now, there was this. “The fact there is no public means you can concentrate more on what you want to say,” said Miuccia. What she and Raf were saying offered a much more reassuring step towards a joint blueprint for Prada than their initial womenswear outing.