Asked backstage what he and Mrs. Prada were thinking when they put together this collection, Raf Simons cheerily countered: “What do you think we’ve been thinking?” With a charming appearance of regret, Mrs. Prada smilingly added that under current Prada protocols, post-show critical comment is “forbidden.” One fellow scribbler standing close by only half heard and thought she’d meant that Forbidden was the theme of the collection. He was disambiguated.
The designers’ sphinx-ily enigmatic position is fair enough. The air of mystery generated by inscrutability is highly stimulating to some. And off-the-cuff comments sometimes get misinterpreted—even if they also lead to dialogue. So we were left with a riddle only partially unlocked by the emailed press release and quotes attributed to the designers that came in after a show that, as you watched it unfold, felt like playing a menswear Wordle.
The first character we cracked was suiting. It came black, skinny in the pant and cropped at the top of cowboy boots. Jackets were single or 1.5-breasted, cut slim and low. Then up popped leather: frisson-making black double-zip short-shorts worn against sleeveless tops and coats. Shortly afterwards the shorts came accented with a series of striped rib knits.
Between look 16 and look 19 came the conceptual meat-and-potatoes via purposefully banal notch collared knee-length four-button coats delivered in leather, gingham and off-white. The models were sometimes double-coated, sometimes single. The shorts underpinned the looks. This coat was a material version of the paper coat that had arrived with the invitation. A colleague had tried his on, and it immediately ripped apart. The paper reflected the set-up: the Fondazione showspace had been laid out like an oversized house interior, whose white walls, gingham curtains and pale brown floor were also made of paper. Was this a prompt to make us consider how matters that seem so substantial and fixed—such as codes of attire or interiors—are fundamentally arbitrary? There still weren’t quite enough characters in play to conclude.
Next up were some leather-edged back-buttoned shirts in shopping bag checks, with craftily naïf ric-rac trims that echoed Prada’s pyramid cipher. There was a brief section of attractive washed denim. Sneakers, cool sneakers, appeared between those Cuban heeled boots. After a brief suity redux and some bottle print T-shirts worn with marginally shorter short-shorts than before, a powerfully normcore beige blouson prefigured a final triptych of looks that played leather against more banal beige coating.
So what was the answer to today’s Prada Wordle? According to the release that landed later, it was in the title of the collection: “Choice.” Said Mrs. Prada in her pre-quote: “So much that is the base is really a conceptual choice—a coat, jeans, a suit. They appear simple but are the result of a process, of choice—there are hundreds of coats, why is this the right one? It is a combination of a long process of design and decision, and then of instinct. It is a matter of style.” Adjacent on the page Simons was reported as saying: “The garments are classic, but their mix contradicts, making them exciting and new. There is leather against the body, then cotton on top—there’s a kind of anti-logic to the combination of the clothes, an oddness.”
Kinky, corporate, normcore and craft—the ingredients in this menswear minestrone of a Prada collection looked pretty weird on the menu, but tasted fresh when seen on the flesh.
In the audience was last season’s breakout Prada model, Jeff Goldblum, who was highly excited by his new Prada shoes and faded double denim look. “If they let me take them home I’m going to get a lot of use out of these, wearing them together and separately… I have some ideas!” he said. “They not only make things that, as you can see, are kind of beautiful and interesting, but they’re comfortable too. I mean, I’m not here to do a commercial, but I’m telling you—that’s how I honestly feel.”
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This story was originally published on Vogue.com