The news that Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons would join forces as co-creative directors of Prada was handed down to a small gathering of fashion journalists via a revelatory press conference during Milan Fashion Week in February—thus beginning the countdown to one of the fashion world’s most eagerly anticipated collection unveilings of all time, from two of its most formidable talents.
All parties have kept hush in the intervening months, with the details originally set out during the Milan conference providing pretty much the only reliable roadmap for what lay ahead.
The fundamentals? The two designers share an equal billing and have a genuine rapport. “We like each other, we respect each other, and we’ll see if we go somewhere,” Prada said of her Belgian counterpart, an accord that was evident at the relaxed pre-recorded question-and-answer briefing that followed today’s catwalk broadcast.
Although the announcement came as something of a bombshell to the industry, the union had been in the works since 2018. “Mr Bertelli approached me right after my exit from Calvin Klein,” Simons said—Bertelli being Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of the Prada Group and Miuccia Prada’s husband. It’s also not the first time that Simons has worked within the Pradasphere—his critically acclaimed tenure at Jil Sander came at a time when the Prada Group had a large stake in the label, as Vogue noted at the time, a job that Simons today described as “his introduction to womenswear”.
Finally, a date was set. The inaugural Prada/Simons collection would be unveiled at Milan Fashion Week spring/summer 2021, which is where we found ourselves (virtually, at least) this afternoon for a blockbuster broadcast from the Rem Koolhaas-designed Fondazione Prada.
This is Vogue’s inside take on the most-talked-about collection unveiling of the year.
“Fashion is about reacting to reality”: Mrs Prada on technology, sustainability and inclusivity
“During the lockdown, I realised how important technology is and how it’s impactful for us and in some ways an extension of ourselves,” Prada explained during the post-show Q&A. “One thing that was very important was the relationship between the technology—the machine—and the girl.” Cue a show set that posed surveillance cameras as ‘chandeliers’. “I want to underline how important sustainability and inclusivity are […] We should, each of us, embrace it,” she stated unequivocally, with Simons concurring.
The Simons-ness and the Prada-ness
“I feel very at ease in the situation,” Simons revealed today, while also later describing himself as “the outsider” who is watching and seeing the Prada brand from the inside for the first time. “This is a beginning […] That’s the beauty of it, that we don’t know where we are going,” Prada added.
As for the question of “What is the ‘Prada-ness’?” submitted by Ikkei from Nara via the public ballot, Prada deferred to Simons. “I’ve always seen it as a community that has a very specific attitude, intellect, aesthetic. The one thing that you can’t really define is what it is, but you feel it is, it exists, it’s there, it’s present, it’s clearly there […] That’s a very important thing for me […] I’m very specific […] That is what a brand needs to have for me to love it.”
And there was plenty to love, with commercially appetising front-and-centre logos, built-in fanny packs and Swiss-cheese cutouts guaranteed to appeal to Prada’s younger fans.
The enduring influence of Miuccia Prada’s personal uniform
“The thing I’ve talked most about with Miuccia through all these months was uniforms,” Simons explained. “Not army uniform, police uniform or something, but effectively metaphorical ones […] The whole first part of the show was very much about that […] I talked a lot with Miuccia about how she dresses […] It’s very often a kind of uniform and that was an instant, important direct inspiration for me, for the show,” he says, adding, “A uniform needs to also express something that is more timeless for me than a season-specific fashion item. It’s a base.”
Mrs Prada’s current uniform? The white pleated-cotton skirt and blue sweater she appeared in today. “I don’t know how long it will go on, but at some point, I’ll change and go on to another one.”
The art-world connection
The duo has a shared history of high-art collabs—Sterling Ruby, Peter Saville and Jeanne Detallante among them. This season, the graphic artworks emblazoned on cocooning hooded outerwear, backpacks and swishy knee-length skirts were created with the help of Belgian artist Peter De Potter, a long-term collaborator of Simons, which were, as the show notes explained: “used to interrupt and disrupt the uniform surfaces of clothes.”
The cult haircut: mullet bangs
Hairstyling maestro Guido Palau’s stroke of genius for SS21? The ‘step mullet’, complete with angular, chunky, cheekbone-grazing bangs that hint to post-lockdown grown-out fringes.
The old-world meets new-world
From the salon-show look numbers (visible on monitors that also displayed the models’ names) to modernist iterations of the opera shawl, this was a collection laden with subtle hints to high fashion’s bygone days, with more than a glimmer of optimism courtesy of the sanguine yellow runway and matching drapes.
The Prada/Simons wraps are likely to be some of the most sought-after collector’s pieces from the SS21 drop, not just because of their upscale wearability, but because they were heralded in the collection notes as “a symbol representative of the collection’s overall considerations” to be “drawn around the body, held by the hand […] in an innately human gesture that can be transformative.”