After months of buildup, the most anticipated show of the season is finally here: Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ first joint collection at the former’s namesake label. The team-up was an unprecedented move in the industry, and as such, no one knew quite what to expect. Would it be a wiping of the slate or an explosion of newness created by two giant creative forces colliding? The answer lied somewhere in between—and anyways, as Prada said in the post-show Q&A, newness for newness’ sake doesn’t feel like the most relevant impulse for her right now.
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What the pair did instead was pare the brand down to its purest codes—very much in line with Raf’s penchant for getting to the core essence of a house he newly joins. In that post-show chat, when asked about “Prada-ness”, he described it as a “certain attitude, intellect and aesthetic”. But there are also specific looks and items that are packed with Prada-ness: the housecoat, the slim knit with the full pleated skirt, the subversively demure kitten heels, the nylon backpack, the pyjama suit, and most importantly, the idea of a uniform. All these boxes were checked, and then some.
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As much as it was about Prada-ness, there was also plenty of Raf-ness—underscoring just how in sync their thought processes have always been. The long, lean silhouette of shell tops and tunics worn over trousers that opened the show was both a Raf signature and a Prada mainstay. The cocoon coats clutched close at the bosom was a romantic gesture both designers have employed to great effect. When the blush version came out, it was a visceral, immediate throwback to Raf’s final Jil Sander show—a position Miuccia placed him in when the Prada Group still owned the brand, and thus kicking off his career in womenswear.
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Other Raf-isms abounded—most notably, the fitted, branded polo-necks with holes cut out of them that were layered under most of the looks, and the Peter de Potter graphics that appeared throughout, even overlaid on some of Prada’s most iconic ugly-chic prints from the ’90s. Further manifestations of the duo’s shared design language include the wrap, a key motif in the collection. Through this one seemingly simple design, they explored the different meanings clothes can take on. Is it protection or adornment? That depends on the whether the wrap comes in re-nylon or duchesse satin. The designers also share a love for midcentury couture shapes, though here they were composed of 21st-century hoodies, anoraks and nylon coats.
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Those hoping for a whiz-bang of creative fireworks might find the collection a little cold or quiet, but in all, it was a highly effective exercise in sketching out the potential shapes that this ongoing collaboration might take. Plus, as they noted in their post-show conversation, the pandemic shortened the amount of time they had together to work on the collection. Well, if this was the new Prada language they came up with in that short period, we can’t wait for the future stories they are about to write.
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