Musical duets take several forms. They are either sung in harmony, led by one while the other follows, or structured as a call-and-response. The coming together of Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada for their inaugural collaborative collection ran to the former: a harmony of voice.
It was the biggest fashion news the world over when it was announced in February that Simons and Prada were joining forces as Co-Creative Directors at Prada. But February seems like a lifetime ago. A year compressed by a torrent of bad news – pandemics, fires, runaway fascism, police brutality, mass protests, horrific explosions – changed the shape of our daily lives. Hunkering at home meant loungewear sales rose, online shopping spiked, and comfort and simplicity took precedence.
The Prada Spring/Summer 2021 collection digested all of those factors, and more. As an agenda-setting designer, Miuccia Prada has made a solo march for thirty years, subverting trends and bucking norms at every step. It was interesting to see her make space for a new voice, to witness how their creativity might overlap or diverge. This time around, subversion was more subtle. The collection seemed to acknowledge a collective exhaustion with the weight of the world, and provided solution-driven uniforms (Miuccia lives for a uniform) of sleeveless tunics and narrow trousers (a Simons signature, along with his penchant for text overlays which decorated many of the looks).
Topped with operatic coats that shrugged off the shoulders and were clutched closed by hand, an intimate gesture of self-protectiveness brought a tenderness out in the collection. A smattering of floral prints echoed Miuccia’s “ugly prints” of the mid-90s, which have been a throughline in her work ever since.
It was a pure-and-simple collection; there was no psychedelia or over-the-top styling to contend with. The character that Miuccia often creates – rude girls, goth girls, fluro-neon raver girls – were replaced by chic ladies in cozy circle skirts, sportif separates, and turtleneck tops with strategically shredded holes. A marriage of ideas was distilled down to its very essence. Accessories were minimal, but strong, especially in the case of buckle-fronted, pointed pumps with a swayback kitten heel.
Following the show, Simons and Prada sat down together for a Q&A session, in which they both opined on their collaboration. If one was hoping for a love story to develop between the two, one might be disappointed. These are two designers who have pragmatism at their core, even when designing flou. Of course, they had to be practical. Think of all the restrictions they faced in harmonizing their duet. The planning for a massive show was scrapped, and they were brought together just as the world was beginning to be separated by social distancing.
The brand might have shifted gears with the onboarding of a new Co-Creative Director, but make no mistake, it’s still Prada.
For that reason, they lasered their focus on what was essential. Simons supplied the reasoning behind the show’s pared-back nature, saying, “It’s something in which you feel good, in which you can express what you want to express without it being a season-specific fashion item.” Prada elaborated, saying, “we have the occasion to really show the clothes. We can’t see the real people, the public, but at least we hope you can enjoy and see the clothes better.” This explains the linear silhouette, the streamlining of bulk, the less-decorous surfaces. All of it was to appear in focus on cameras – from every unforgiving angle imaginable – for the world to see, hence the simple backdrop.
Another surprise was in store: the Prada logo was amplified and affixed to the throat of many looks, as if to declare a new identity. The brand might have shifted gears with the onboarding of a new Co-Creative Director, but make no mistake, it’s still Prada.