Prada with Raf Simons: A newer New Look
Raf Simons made his collaborative debut at Prada on Thursday afternoon, in the most keenly anticipated runway show in the world this year.
Due to the pandemic, the collection was presented purely online, though selected guests were invited to view a post-show discussion with Simons and his new design partner Miuccia Prada, whose family own 90% of the publically quoted house.
Simons arrival certainly injected lots of new ideas into the Prada collection – from cast to clothing; from attitude to silhouette. And curiously, regarding the latter, an echo of the New Wave of Christian Dior, the house where Simons was creative director in the first half of the previous decade.
Prada generously invited a select crew of editors and clients to a series of simultaneous projections of the collection in a half dozen cities – Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai, Istanbul, Moscow, Berlin and Paris. And, in Paris, the appearance of the New Look silhouette caused a knowing murmur among several tables at the Prada lunch in the stylish La Girafe restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
Though, to be clear, it was a very cool and clever take on Dior’s silhouette – composed of clinging mohair knit sweaters over techy tops, with cut-outs and mini neckline logos on top of some marvelously flared mid-calf skirts, cinched with the famous wasp waist by nylon straps and seatbelt buckles. Often worn over a somewhat familiar French escarpin, sculpted mini heel.
A new casting too, recalling Raf’s penchant for very slim, innocent teenage models, in contrast to the set – a windowless studio all done in golden yellow drapes and matching carpet, with a sense of David Lynch mischief.
Dangling from the ceiling were a series of cameras, offering scores of viewing angles of the collection, where, one model at a time, the cast marched somberly, some names printed on hanging monitors.
The duo clearly had worked in harmony – and took their share of risks. Like adding multiple texts on satin, silk and nylon looks, often in French – like Signaux volent vers nous – which the Italians always regard as a sign of sophistication.
Raf clearly loves the classic triangular Prada metallic logo, placing it on the neckline of the first five or six looks. And this new duo does appreciate a femme fatale, swaddling a half-dozen gals in the most beautiful element in the show: swirling, over-sized cocoon coats in mixes of mercerized cotton or moiré, often with contrasting exterior buttons.
They also cut upside-down backpacks into mini nylon skirts and played with the house’s signature retro Verner Panton stool, incorporating check board prints in several coats, which looked a tad gimmicky. All told, a powerful collection, though perhaps not a powerful statement, as if the whole shebang was not quite greater than the sum of its parts.
Post show, the pair sat on two benches four meters apart and fielded a series of softball questions printed on a giant screen behind them. Like, "when did you first think of working together?"
"It never occurred to me this could happen but I’m glad it did. We met many years ago when Miuccia and Patrizio Bertelli gave me the position at Jil Sander and, thanks to that, my introduction to womenswear. So when the question came up this time, there was no doubt in my mind," responded Simons.
"Is everything in fashion regenerated?" wondered another fan.
"Since Covid, everyone has to express the deep thoughts of their brand. So 'new' sounds like an important word," said Miuccia.
"Fashion always hopes for the new, everybody wants to be new. But when you have a brand for a few decades what’s important is to refresh your own body of work," added Raf.
One query read: "What do you drink in the morning to start your day?" Literally. We will not burden the reader with the designers' responses.
"How did Raf view the Prada company before arriving?"
“For many many years, even before I started my own brand 25 years ago, I had already seen it as very community. That it has a very secret attitude, intellect and aesthetic. You cannot really define what it is but it exists and is clearly present," responded the Belgian designer, dressed in an oversized cable wool sweater and black pants.
And, "how does one become a designer?" asked a youthful fan.
"Study, study, study; watch movies; look at art and read literature. The result of my clothes is that the people who wear them feel a little better, so they are useful. So really think about them as an instrument for your life," concluded Miuccia, dressed in a flared and pleated white skirt and dark blue sweater.
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