Prada goes from pencil to circle. All with gravitas and gallantry
Who’d send out on the runway a first look with a predominance of a white skirt except Prada? An unsexy ankle-length?Not high-waisted? And a plain grey sweater to go with that? And no accessory, not even a bag? But flat pumps with origami-like flaps? Prada had no qualms in allowing the fewest essential to be in the spotlight, to be held up to scrutiny and, consequently, be admired. There were no statement pieces (perhaps, the skirts?), not that Prada does not make statements. It’s just that they are usually less proclamations than propositions. Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons are not inclined to putting a loud-hailer to their designs. That white skirt (yes, we were taken with it) is not extraordinary in shape, but the sheer overlay on which floral-patterned medallion cut-outs, like Chinese 剪紙 (jianzhi or paper cutting), were neatly appliqued in a grid, did focus one’s attention on it. That it looked like giant motile cells added to its pull. Just one skirt.
Perhaps it was the bareness of the runway that allowed us to focus on what was coming down it. The show was, as before, held at the brand’s own space, the Fondazione Prada. Only existing pillars, painted in what could be traffic orange, could be considered sets. But as the show proceeded, floral casings—in white blooms and green foliage—slid down, as if a bridal show was to unfold. We were enthralled by the soundtrack too: First, a menacing industrial growl/hum, and then Roxy Music’s In Every Dream Home a Heartache, a brief transition of Vangelis’s electronic Spiral, before The Kinks’s I Go To Sleep. And then, totally unexpected was The Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss! Was the highly mixed genre (which, to us reflected more Mr Simons’s taste than the maison’s) a reflection of the no-fixed theme of the collection? Sure, the show notes mentioned, menswear, uniforms, and, er, wedding dresses—did these explain those white skirts? And the floral display?
Prada has, of course, been a proponent of uniforms for as long as we can remember their RTW. And their revisit this season was not unusual, and far from groundbreaking. But then Ms Prada and Mr Simons were not limited by what the need for uniforms usually entails—specific functions or the enhancement of unity. So they could, for instance, mix the military with the nuptial, not that both recognisable aesthetics appeared glaringly in one outfit. But a tad subversive it was of the pairing of a hint of bridal dress (that skirt!) with the noticeably military (that sweater!). Celebratory meets utility. There was also placing of work shirts—the type a commercial pilot might wear—atop mini skirts with folded or draped panels. Or those not at odds with the SAF’s No.2 dress, just with delightfully oversized epaulettes, and teamed with high-waisted skinny(!) pants. There were, too, very-Prada details elsewhere: flapping trains (even on printed, body-skimming dresses Anna Wintour would quickly place an order, but she very likely, too, would ask the train to be chopped), detachable collars (bi-coloured!) to go with oversized blazers (in case you wished to wear them alone), and the new spot for the Prada logo-plaque—on the white skirts, to the left, at hip level.
The beauty of Prada is that they don’t complicate things. They let their sense of proportion, control, and colour come through unambiguously. You know what you are seeing. Off-beat details are there to throw the orderliness, even neatness, off balance. Deconstructionism is not their urgent story (never have), but tilting the kilter is. The symmetry is so until you see a distraction. Yet, the distraction is not, well, distracting. The simplicity is still preserved, enhanced, beautified. Some people might think that we’re bias, eager to point out the restraint and directness of others, but not Prada’s. For avid followers of Prada (and we know there are many), that requires no defending. We’ve often been told that Prada isn’t for many women, not their sisters, or mothers. Perhaps, therein lies their immense charm.