Milan Fashion Week: Prada makes heroes of the anti-heroes
The Prada show starts as you drive up to the building. The Fondazione, the brand’s monolithic exhibition complex in the south east of Milan, is brutally resplendent in late afternoon sunlight; shimmering, and punctuated by pops of soft orange. Even the CCTV cameras are tasteful. Long, architectural shadows seem artfully arranged.
The people outside are very Pradan, too. Few designers seem to command such sartorial loyalty, with scores of guests dressing accordingly, sporting the bubble-gum knits and oversize pastel shirts of Prada’s recent S/S ’20 collection, or the technical riot police outerwear and electro-print Frankenstein shirts of A/W ’19. Everyone, seemingly, is paying homage to the prevailing elan of Mrs Miuccia P., even if in only a small way.
The new A/W ’20 collection will only spur further evangelism, and justifiably. Jammed with the codes of the house – off-kilter, dusty, jewel-tone colours that seem to at once clash and marry perfectly, Seventies texture, Eighties sports detailing, boxy tailoring, beefy shoes – it was democratic Prada. Clothing that would energise some wardrobes and calm others, while slotting seamlessly into both. At its most subdued there was navy tailoring, black wool overcoats, grey knitwear. And at its loudest there were silk pyjamas in retro-futuristic geometric prints, ketchup-red platform boots and metallic sweater-vests with shearling trim.
The collection is designed to celebrate “anti-heroic masculinity” – the style and lifestyle of the oft-overlooked everyman. The mix of proportions (oversized, drop-shoulder blazers and cropped drainpipe trousers with stirrups at the cuff) are intended to “challenge, undermine and ultimately explode our prosaic reflections of male power and force,” according to the notes that accompanied the show. The setting itself, which saw models walking through and around two identical ‘piazzas’, intended to reflect the way commuters move about a city. At the finale, when models usually walk out in one uniform line to allow guests to see the collection as a whole, the Prada lads buzzed about in random to mirror the way people might rush through a train station concourse on the way home from work.
Elements of the A/W ’20 collection – namely the boots and shoes, the side-stripe trousers and the tartan prints – were reengineered versions of Prada designs first seen at the A/W ’99 show. Perhaps it was to demonstrate that the aesthetic thread of the house is still heartily intact, or perhaps it was a comment on the modern necessity for constant newness – a reminder that something doesn’t need to be novel to be culturally relevant. Perhaps it was both, or neither. As the notes say, “The present is constantly creating a forthcoming past.”