It’s been a year and a few days since Italy’s first COVID case was detected. Milan Fashion Week was in full swing when the outbreak in the Lombardy region began. Looking back, knowing now what we didn’t know then, is to see plenty of hand-wringing but probably not enough hand-washing. Fashion has done much hand-wringing for the last 12 months. Beyond the disastrous economics of the pandemic, there have been pressing, existential questions: How will a year at home affect what we want? Does fashion matter in a world bereft of social interactions?
There are two brilliant fashion minds at Prada now, with Raf Simons having joined Miuccia Prada as co-creative director that fateful week a year ago. So there are few better places to look for answers now. As the director Lee Daniels put it in an online Q&A post-show, “Miuccia takes this shit very, very seriously.” (Daniels hired Prada to design the costumes worn by Andra Day in his new film The United States vs. Billie Holiday.)
Adjusting to the idea that “normal” isn’t coming back took all of us longer than it probably should have. But whatever shape the world takes when we re-emerge, there’s a collective feeling of hope that’s new. At a small press conference after the Q&A Prada said, “optimism is mounting.” That’s a different take than she and Simons had a month ago in a similar situation following their fall 2021 men’s show. “We don’t feel it’s right, now, to be too exuberant,” Simons said then.
You can credit this shift of mind to the vaccines, the inevitable brightening of moods as winter ends and spring begins, or the pleasures that Prada and Simons are finding in collaboration. “It feels natural,” Simons said of their partnership today. “At the same time, of course, it’s challenging, but I expected that. And I wanted it to be, otherwise I wouldn’t have come.” Together, these factors produced a collection with a tantalising sense of glamour. It glimmered most clearly in the rectangular double-sided wraps—paillettes on one side, faux fur on the other—that models clutched to their breasts in a gesture “of protection, but also of elegance.” One such wrap was worn over a matching black paillette dress which itself was layered over the second-skin jacquard knits that appeared in many of the looks.
In its endorsement of these foundational knits, the collection was a showcase for the key way the pandemic is changing fashion. Ease is the flip side of elegance: In 2021, in contrast to the past, both are integral; and women seem unlikely to sacrifice the former for the latter. “Ease and movement were very important to us,” Simons confirmed. This is a positive development, especially because Prada and Simons were able to manage it while also reigniting a fashion spark that a year of online living has otherwise made dormant. A few of the compelling ways to celebrate our reemergence here included a drop-shoulder, puff-sleeve coat in electric yellow (a colour the duo is staking a claim to), a chesterfield in midnight sequins, and a clutch coat in fake fur and the company’s regenerated Re-Nylon.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com