Impeccable Ease At Prada

Miuccia Prada and RAF Simons really show that they do not have to try so hard

It is hard to achieve the balance between accessible and sophisticated. Harder still to place intellectual and sexy side by side. And even more so to temper conventional dressmaking with creative tweaks that could be construed as finishing oversight. Prada has found that harmony. Even in the co-working of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. There is not just balance between the two of the world’s most forward practitioners of their craft; there is synergy too. And admirable—and appreciable as well—is how easy both make their output appear. Nothing is ever over. ’Effortless ease’ may sound like a phrase Boomers use, but it is germane to what Prada has achieved and continues to be.

Ms Prada said in a statement that, in this collection, there is the attempt to free the garments of “unnecessary complication”. She added, “the clothes are about simplicity, with no unnecessary complication.” While they are indeed simple (has Prada ever been otherwise?), the designers did not take the edge off the clothes. After what was seen in New York and London, Prada’s simplicity is the proverbial breath of fresh air. Or, petrichor, that welcome smell after a rain. If one could put a aromatic note to Prada’s collections, that is it. But, have we not caught a whiff of this before? This almost-nothingness has been discerned in the air of Prada’s runway (does it smell like CDG’s Zero?) before in the Prada Fondazione. Ms Prada told The Cut in 2019 that the Resort 2020 collection was “all about simplicity” (!) and that “simplicity is a provocation; simplicity is rebellion.”

However often Prada reprises their simplicity or exercises their restraint, they would not leave a line that straight. The clothes this time are supposed to reveal the life spent in them, but not in conspicuous ways, underscoring the fan belief that with Prada, there’s always more than meets the eye, to the extent that only a close examination of the selected pieces in the store satisfies even the feeblest curiosity. This season’s creased bust-dart on slip dresses, warped slits of skirts, ragged neckline of cardigans, crinkles on suits, random pinching on the waists of short dresses, the snagged necklines and sagged hemlines of shifts—they begged a visit to the boutiques for their close-up. And one item too deserves in-person view: those long johns with shirt collars and cuffs. Are they the answer to this season’s underclothes-no-more singlets?

Since its womenswear debut in 1988, Prada has been the consistently talked about label following each showing during Milan Fashion Week, even when ordinarily the brand hardly draws a queue at their stores (certainly not here). Ms Prada told The New York Times back in 2013, “I hope they don’t just buy because there is a logo, but because the object is relevant to them.” In fashion weeks increasingly overflowing with meretricious clothes, Prada’s hyper-fuss-free pieces are honest, relatable, and definitely relevant. Even when sheerness is employed as part of the brand’s fascination with opacity, contrasts, and textures, it comes, as it does now, without the evocation of the sleazy. Simply put, Prada just can’t serve anything visually rude. And therein, for many, lies their strength and enduring influence.

Screen shot (top) and photos: Prada

Two Of A Kind: Gloves With Pouches

If there are two-way bags, there are two-way gloves too. So who’s leading the way?

At the Fendi resort 2023 presentation in New York earlier this month, one model stole the show, even when a bag that Fendi launched 25 years ago—the Baguette—was meant to be the bigger star. The oblong bag with the recognisable flap (and the logo-ed buckle in the middle, near the bottom) was, to be certain, saluted, and in more than one interpretation. The Baguette, in fact, didn’t merely come in other variations, such as the waist bag, trinkets, and even hand warmers; it was sited on articles many would not consider traditional placement, and one of them was on gloves.

If we remember correctly, it was Prada that first fastened what they call a “pouch” on their gloves—on the dorsal side of the hand—for the autumn/winter 2021 season. These were in the shape of the brand’s inverted triangle logo and were, in fact, functional. A zip at the top secured it’s content. Given their size, they could hold coins. Each nifty pouch sported the enamel Prada logo, and the colour and fabric matched the S$1,770-per-pair gloves. At the time, these were considered by many to be “cute”. Now, Fendi has followed suit, placing their considerably shrunken and floppier Baguette on gloves. But rather than leather, their gloves are in knit and their pouches are in nylon, and in the shape of a rectangle that could fit credit cards.

That Fendi needed to create new product categories is understandable. These days, both of these Italian fashion powerhouses are veritable department stores, and they would require a wide assortment of merchandise to fill their massive spaces. And accessories sell, even better than garments. But in widening their offerings, could there be a sacrifice of originality? Could the ability to emulate mean the temptation to submit? Has our world really become one of mono-culture? Or, has the fashion industry become like the tech industry—an open-source community? Ponder over.

Photos: Fendi and Prada respectively

The Prada Singlet

And the asking price of S$1,480

“Pragmatic garments acquire new importance and value”, Prada says on its website in reference to their “typically masculine tank top”. That Prada would give seriousness and status to clothing this practical is understandable. But what about value? Are they referring to merit or material worth? First shown in the autumn/winter 2022 show in Milan back in February, the sleeveless top is now available in stores here for the startling price of S$1,480. Under the same roof, a “wallet with shoulder strap” in the house’s recognisable Saffiano leather and with gold hardware is noticeably cheaper—S$1,070. And you thought the similar Marine Serre version (in organic cotton though), with her crescent moon logo in the middle, expensive at S$200 a pop. How does a mere singlet, as we tend to call such garment (Prada prefers the American phrase), that is essentially an undershirt become a four-figure item? Or is the price determined to deter wearers from letting it sit under? Surely it has to be seen?

To be sure, the Prada singlet has a nice hand feel. In baby-ribbed, cotton-knit jersey, it is soft and surprisingly rather thick and does not yield easily to enthusiastic stretching, possibly due to the heavier-gauge yarn used in the fabric, and that it is for the fall season. The neckline—described as “scooped” but is rather squarish—and the surprisingly wide armholes are piped (quite widely) in the same fabric as the body. Although of a “fitted silhouette”, as per Prada, the singlet sits rather loosely on an average-sized woman. In the middle, right below the neckline, a recognisable Prada inverted triangle in enamel catches attention, like a third eye—here, seeing from the cleavage. Without this, the singlet, even if it “embodies the luxury of simplicity”, would not have stood out from its less-worthy ilk, such as those by Hanes or the Japanese brand Gunze.

In the middle, right below the neckline, a recognisable Prada inverted triangle in enamel catches attention, like a third eye—here, seeing from the cleavage

This singlet, Prada tells us, is “is transformed” from a “typically masculine tank top… with the addition of feminine elements”. While the neckline and possibly the armholes are feminised, the garment is unable to divorce itself from the regular singlet once worn mainly by men. This top, when it emerges as outerwear in the mid-19th century has always been associated with the working class or, in Australia, where the name ‘singlet’ derives, shearers, miners, and farmers. It is a simple garment, made of durable, inexpensive rib cotton knit that is appreciated for its comfort and shape retention (the neck and the armholes are usually reinforced for added durability, as it is with the Prada). It is not associated with high-end fashion, but so are T-shirts. Nothing is too low-brow for luxury fashion when brands desire to offer everything one may need to fill one’s wardrobe.

This is not Prada‘s first singlet, of course. One iteration in the past that we recall has far less discreet branding on the chest (emblazoned with logo and crest). We cannot remember how much that cost, but it is unlikely above S$1,000. A Calvin Klein tank top under its Calvin Klein Jeans imprint, averages S$79 a piece, and that is still premium pricing. One Hong Kong-based sourcing agent told us that such tank tops “typically cost US$1 to 2” to produce if Chinese cotton is not used (they are now cheaper as most international brands are avoiding them—“nobody wants China cotton now”). Fabrics make up the largest component of the cost of the garment, and the fibre of the fabric usually the largest of that cost. Cotton fibres outside China preferred these days come from Peru and Barbados, to name two places. We do not, of course, know where Prada’s cotton for their singlet comes from, but, in all likelihood, it’s not a fabric so astronomically priced that they could justify the four-figure price the brand is asking for.

Garment pricing is, of course, somewhat complex and includes factors beyond manufacturing and the quantity produced. The one item on the singlet that is probably it’s selling point rather than the “pragmatic garment” itself—and a symbol of perceived value—is the triangular Prada plaque. As one marketing head told us, “the Prada brand value and their logos sit in the stratosphere. And they are worth more than the ribbed cotton singlet, which is just a vehicle to push the brand. You have to pay to wear that triangle, and not an insignificant amount. Somehow they have worked the ‘COE’ into the price of the garment.” The Prada triangle first mostly appeared on bags and accessories. It started to find its place on garments in a significant manner, sometimes just a mere triangle in fabric and sans text, after Raf Simons joined the company as co-designer in 2020. The plaque is appealing all over again, even on gloves.

But as with everything else in fashion, including ugliness, expensive is being redefined. That a singlet could cost this much is not due to the design and the sensuality that the brand has infused into its garments and one that has been described as cerebral, but a single hardware no taller than the length of an adult thumb. Prada is aware of the humble history of the singlet. That’s why they need to elevate it and team it with relatively fancy, not minimalist, skirts, as seen on the runway, in the current lookbook, and on store mannequins, not with just a pair of jeans—that would be too pedestrian. And to further augment its value, that small regular shape with three angles, a vestige of luxury that will cost the proverbial pretty penny. That way, you would single the singlet out.

Photos: Chin Boh Kay

Return To Lean

…with many pairs of shorts. Prada looks at its house classics and it’s a formidable show of form

Prada has always marched to their own recognisable drum of not necessarily blazing tempo, but clearly with challenging drum patterns. With Raf Simons onboard, the drill is even more gripping, especially when both Miuccia Prada and Mr Simons go back to what both of them do very well: a punchy groove of minimalist tailoring, now lensed through two pairs of eyes on a single brand. Milan this season is seeing many houses going back to what they do best (even not). At Prada, too, but with the contribution of Raf Simons, it’s double the delight. That they should present what they do best—the dressed-up, the normcore, and the quirky—is a palpable trust in their own abilities-as-one than any revisit to the past.

First up or out, the black suits. These are evocative of those both designers used to do (and, in fact, have been doing on and off): generally slim-fitting but not tight. The jackets are single or semi-double breasted, with natural shoulders that are not dropped (or extended) and arms not constricted. The pants are skinny and sometimes cropped to above the Cuban boots, sometimes to the bottom, with nary a break. The silhouettes are, therefore, lean, so too are the rest to come. Even the T-shirts or the knit tops are not boxy and baggy. The shape of the body (Prada still prefers skinny boys) is not obsured.

And then the looks shift—to shorts. Many shorts! And also worn with the boots. This season, the shorts are not too brief. One recurrent pair is a leather style, sans waistband, with two zips that flank the centre seam (there is no fly), ending at crotch level, and with diagonal welt pockets, their openings set apart. These are worn with almost everything: sleeveless scrubs-looking tops, skinny jumpers, sweater-knit tees, woven pullovers and shirts, and many, many outers, sometimes two coats at a go. Could this be Prada coming as close as possible to guys wearing a dress, after still resisting non-bifurcated bottoms?

Prada has never been strictly sombre when it comes to their colours. This season, while the palate is quite muted, there are some, mostly in the house dusty shades and the occasional pastel. Standouts are the use of gingham and other checks, especially those light floaty overcoats worn with the ease of a lab coat. The Prada triangle, too, appears again. Since Mr Simons’s arrival at the house, Prada has made clever use of its its three-sided logo in ways that are not the black ones we see on bags. This season, the inverted isosceles is a mere perimeter using rickrack, those flat, braided, zigzag trims that are very much associated with home sewing (they were frequently used, we remember, over smocking) before the advent of computerised sewing machines that can do fancy stitches. It’s prettiness without being too pretty.

Prada collections often escape easy descriptions. And this time, it is so again. While the many coats worn over shorts might be evocative of the get-up of a flasher (or whatever else perverse you can think of), much of the clothes are more wearable than they appear, even the round-neck trucker and the car coats that would be, in the past, considered feminine. There is always the fine balance between the tailored and the relaxed, the refined and the off-kilter, the tasteful and the not quite. And in the lively mix or ‘Choice’, as the collection is named, easy does it.

Screen shot: prada.com. Photos: gorunway.com

Dress Watch: An Intricate Sheath

This Prada sheath dress would be spellbinding to those who appreciate design as much as dressmaking, and the efforts that go into something this complex that looks not quite

This season at Prada, much attention is paid to the double-faced silk satin, very abbreviated mini-skirts that come with an origami-ish train. They are all over social media, although mostly worn without the more covered-up tops that Prada probably intended. The brand called this wee piece of garment “seduction by reduction” and the public-transport-unfriendly train “a spontaneous gesture”. But long-time followers of their design development know nothing at Prada is ever reduced—stripped of details to nothing. And, despite the suggestion of insouciance, definitely not impromptu or offhand.

But more compelling is our favourite dress from the house this season: First seen on the runway (and the sales person was quick to inform us), this one-piece is, at it most elemental, a shirt-dress worn back to front. But, as we’ve noted, few item of Prada’s RTW are as simple as they first appear. The dress is of a conventional enough silhouette (to us, a whiff of the Forties), even with the considerably dropped shoulders. The focal point in the front is the waist, positioned not too high up. It is gathered by means of boning, inspired, presumably, by the corset. But unlike the close-fitting undergarment of the past, this boned treatment is not worn to constrict the torso. Nope, nothing as Victorian as that.

In fact, the boning is not discreet. Of different length placement (but symmetrical), the stiffening slips (we do not know if they are whalebone, nor the staff at the store), which looked to be half an inch (about 1.3 cm) wide, are hidden as well as exposed, allowing a graphically decorative interest. In addition, they keep the gathers in place and the bodice stiff, but not quite. This dress is not worn for body-shaping, and it is made in linen, which isn’t a rigid fabric. And that is, to us, deeply alluring about the dress: the idea of stiffening but executed with fabric that is somewhat limp, made more so by the slubbed finish.

In the rear, the dress is held together by a row of buttons from the collared opening at the neck to just below the posterior (the rest is an inverted-V opening). If you thought that would mean needing assistance getting buttoned-up, then take comfort in the knowledge that Prada intended the dress to be unbuttoned to the waist, which means you can fasten the last three or four buttons and get into the dress without any effort at all. Skin-baring, but without the sleazy exposure of Julia Fox.

Prada Slub Canvas Dress, SGD 7100, is available at Prada stores. Photo illustration: Just So

Starting From A Singlet

Prada’s inner garment of what was once men’s undershirt is truly the freshest back-to-basics new beginning

Halfway through this season’s Prada show, Dave Gahan’s voice was heard singing “Let me see you stripped/Down to the bone” in the Martin Gore-penned Stripped (from Depeche Mode’s 1986 album Black Celebration). The song is one of four (the other three Leave in Silence, I feel You, and Behind the Wheel from other albums) that soundtracked the show, staged just hours after Russia aberrantly attacked Ukraine. It is doubtful that the war, predicted months earlier, influenced the Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, but the aviator jackets and mannish coats that could be those worn over army uniforms had a premonitory feel about them. But it is the strip down to the decidedly mannish white singlet (‘vest’, in the UK)—traditionally worn as undershirt, and, yes, under military accoutrements too—that oddly underpins the magnificence and refinement of Prada’s autumn/winter 2022 season.

Who’d guess that Prada, still associated with the lady-like no matter how subversive they get, would not be using a camisole when an inner garment is required. A boyfriend’s top trending very soon? And, a re-acquainting with men’s underclothing brands such as Gunze and Schiesser? Prada has always leaned on the masculine (to the disapproval of tai-tais, who, as a stylist told us with a tinge of regret in his voice, “do not like Raf Simons”), but that inclination is always tempered with something feminine, as it is now. The ribbed singlet, while in some looks is worn singly, often goes under a sheer shift (sometimes underpants showing) or over a slim, horizontally paneled skirt. It is this visual dichotomy that Prada, to us, is often ahead of and leagues apart from others.

Increasingly, the partnership between Ms Prada and Mr Simons looks back at the brand’s ‘codes’ and bringing them back for re-imagining and re-enjoying. But they are not reprised wholesale, as Mr Simons says in a statement. “There are never direct recreations, but there is a reflection of something you know, a language of Prada.” Those notorious ‘ugly’ Prada prints of the ’90s, for example, in “puke” colours return in the form of knit sweaters, and paired with those narrow tri-paneled skirts. There is a veritable play of textures of fabrics, and density as well, which makes the compositions delightfully more complex than they really are. Or those full skirts, now even fuller, that Ms Prada herself is synonymous with. But the “language” that Mr Simons speaks of may not communicate to that many women here. The silhouettes, for many, is not feminine enough—the boxiness, the wide shoulders (even on the dresses), and the lack of the constricted embrace of curves! But if Kim Kardashian, attending the Prada show for the first time, can be seen in a baggy, leather, men’s boiler suit, why can’t more women here re-examine their supposed distaste for Prada?

For sure, there’s a palpable presence of Mr Simons’s distinct hand in the collection. He does look at womenswear quite differently, unlike, say, Kim Jones, for whom a more traditional approximation of feminine gravitas is what, to him, Fendi needs. The music of the Prada show again: they seem to be a selection that is more in keeping with Mr Simons’s own taste than what the house of Prada is usually known for. The harder, more industrial sound, more techno-retro, too, recalls the selections used in Mr Simons on shows. It does, however, cast Prada in a seductive past/present light, imbuing the clothes with a need-them-right-away nowness. As Mr Grahan sang in Dresses in Black (also from Black Celebration, but not used in the show), “As a picture of herself/She’s a picture of the world/A reflection of you, a reflection of me/And it’s all there to see if you only give in to the fire within.” That’s Prada, and we agree.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Prada

With Actors, To Entice Pursuit

Prada’s autumn/winter 2022 presentation includes “10 globally-renown Hollywood stars”

Kyle MacLachlan opening the Prada show

Jeff Goldblum closing the show

Prada courting Hollywood actors is nothing new. Many will remember the autumn/winter 2012 show: on the red carpet with patterns resembling those of the Navajo (although the stadium setting could have been some place in Red Soviet) were William Dafoe, Adrien Brody, and Gary Oldman. These were not your typical matinee idols. For cinema fans, they were (and still are) the best character actors of both sides of the Atlantic. And then, now, there are ten: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Asa Butterfield, Jeff Goldblum, Damson Idris, Kyle MacLachlan, Tom Mercier, Jaden Michael, Louis Partridge, Ashton Sanders and Filippo Scotti. Once again, not your average leading men. Prada would never use Tom Cruise!

“Actors are interpreters of reality, employed to echo truth through their portrayals,” Prada tells us. The reality of an actor, whoever he portrays is, of course not necessarily our reality. But in choosing older actors for the runway, is Prada also saying something about experience as part of that reality? Fashion, of course, knows no age. And Prada’s menswear have often shown that to be true, as seen in how Jeff Goldblum has embraced the brand, pre-pandemic. Even the pick of Morale… You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling from The Human League’s first album in 1979, Reproduction, to soundtrack the show seems to target an older, post-disco pack that would no doubt instantly hum to “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips/And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips (yes, originally sung by the Righteous Brothers in 1964—even earlier!)”.

Co-designers Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons are not literalists. Their references are often far more oblique. While both do look back, they do not bring to the fore a wholesale past. As per their collection communiqué: “Eschewing hierarchy, a dignity is proposed to pragmatic clothing, uniforms of reality, rematerialized in precious leather and silk tech as a mark of respect and value“. It is hard to imagine Prada not doing anything pragmatic, but there is always something a tad subversive to the pragmatism, even deviant. In case you are not too impressed with the spot-on tailoring, they’ve sneaked in something small, but so unexpected: dangling earrings! Sure, these are not in the chandelier style (they’re mostly geometrically-shape charms), but some are long enough to be, hmmm, shoulder dusters!

That is probably as far a feminine touch as Prada would go. Definitely no skirts. Or, should that be not yet?. In fact, we think this is one of the most masculine collections from Prada. The leather outers, with their hulky shoulders—they have an almost gangster quality about them, even in red. An SOTD reader messaged us to say that they reminded him of Claude Montana. Perhaps, but we were thinking of Demna (now, like his new best friend, going by one name) designing the costumes for a John le Carré movie (even the unlikely George Smiley!). And those one-pieces, with their suggestions of the the boiler room—workwear cool as sexy as military pomp. When Miuccia meets Raf.

Screen shots and photos: Prada

Two Of A Kind: Triangular Bags

Looks like Prada has embraced the love for bags that won’t stand right side up

Back in 2018, before anyone could imagine a pandemic approaching, Balenciaga issued an oddity of a bag. It had the shape of a cut sandwich, and, if you held it the right-side up by the handle—as you would—and placed it on, say, a table, it won’t sit straight down. Unless you are especially adept at balancing an object on a point, chances are, the the bag would rest, as gravity does its job, on either one of its flat sides. Or fall forward, or backwards, assuming you do not mind a rude jolt to its content. Despite the problems with keeping such a bag upright, Prada, too, has released their own version of the the three-corner bag, some three years later. Shape, as it turns out, trumps practical considerations.

That Prada would fashion a bag after an impractical polygon is understandable. Under the creative co-stewardship of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, the house’s inverted triangle that was originally used in the company’s handbags has been imaginatively reinstated by the designers in versions not seen before. Now, the triangle comes in unbranded sweater-knit pieces used on clothing, as well as in the form of little purses and pouches that could be attached to anything, from gloves to sneakers. Or, more dramatically, on this striking bag as just a padded shape in the same nappa leather as the bag itself, and without the crest of the original logo, just the name, embossed in silver.

This triangular flap-top (secured to the body by zips) handbag is lightly padded, and comes with a handle and a shoulder strap, which is reminiscent of the Balaenciaga too. But while Demna Gvasalia’s version had a sportif vibe about it, Prada’s emanate the quiet elegance of its popular Cleo shoulder bag. It may not be the obvious choice for those picking a new bag, but the fact that it can’t sit up the way we are used to in handbags might augment its oddball appeal. For pandemic-era revenge spending, why join the crowd?

Prada padded nappa leather handbag, SGD3,200, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands

The Pleasure of Prada

Without black bras, just underwired bra cups hidden under knitted polos

By now, midway through Milan Fashion Week (after New York and then London), we know ‘sexy’ is a big theme. The navel is exposed, the bra is free to breathe. It is, therefore, interesting—to say the least—to see how Prada would interpret the seemingly inescapable post-pandemic (we are being optimistic here) sexy. This is Prada’s first IRL show after Raf Simons joined Miuccia Prada as co-designers last year. But it isn’t a one-city show even when it is a one-city fashion week. What happens in Milan does not stay in Milan. In fact, it is happening elsewhere too—Shanghai, to be exact. Yes, two shows were happening at the same time, for the first time in fashion week history. On both sides, large video screens, set in portrait orientation, revealed what was happening on the other, and how the same outfit on two different woman would look. Prada is Prada, no matter where you are.

Against a soundtrack of the neo-sexy speak-sing (not rap!) Misericord by the Brighton post-rock/ambient duo Insides, comprising Julian Tardo & Kirsty Yates, Prada shows that sexy could be something not seen elsewhere. This is sexy that won’t score on the Met Gala red carpet (or whatever the year’ colour is) and at the Video Music Awards’. Neither will it win any star/celebrities extra pages in magazines dedicated to such stuff. Prada’s premise for sexy is simple: the mini-shirt. But these aren’t your mother’s mini-skirts nor the denim shreds you are used to wearing. These are more tailored, better shaped, cuter. And what is in front is not the same as in the back. There are the short-front-long-backs and the many with a quirky train! Could this be for whoever has the ends to roll the wearer in? A pre-mating ritual? Or just excess, non-functional fabrics waiting to be caught between MRT doors?

As impractical as these misplaced selendangs are, they are the little off-beat touches that often make many followers regard Prada with wonder. We watched the show again. And again. Each time, the lengths of fabric in the rear are not the same. Some appear to be a length of silk fashioned into a skirt, with a centre-back seam, leaving the rest of the fabric tailing; some appear to emerge from the waist, like the 15th century’s narrow aprons shifted to the rear; and some one side of the tail of a flat bow left to float as the wearer strides forward. Amazingly, not one model trips or has the fabric panel caught ungainly between the legs! These are far more appealing (and camp?) than beauty pageant sashes.

And the skirts go with almost anything too. Ms Prada and Mr Simons team them with sweaters, shell tops (with boning to mimic—but not effect—corsets), shirts, leather motorcycle jackets, and oversized car coats with lacing as fastening. The tops, in fact, are especially strong this season. A sure hit: sweater-knit pullovers and polos, with under-wired bras seemingly molded onto the fabric. That’s sexy! The one-pieces are standouts too, particularly the waisted shifts. Appealing are those with square necks and fold-down flaps along the horizontal that are in the shape of Prada’s inverted triangle logo, these days used to ingenious effects. Minimal, Prada is also saying, can be sexy too.

In their third outing as co-designers, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons proved that two together can design one brand. And that their ideas can come together synergistically to great and desirable effects, allowing the brand’s strength in simple shapes, unexpected details, and off-beat colours to not wane. For the customary end-of-show bow, both designers appear and receive the applause in Milan. Would it not be terrific if two of them can be in the different cities in which the shows were staged?

Screen grab (top) and photos: Prada

The Shoe Companion

Sean Wotherspoon is not the first to plonk a mini-bag on a pair of sneakers, and he won’t be the last

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW

Who’d guess that sneakers will one day get their companion bags? Or, as sneakerhead-turn-retailer-turn-designer Sean Wotherspoon is wont to say, “No waaaay, duuude”. Our kicks these days must serve more than what they were originally designed for: sports. As fashion items, brands and collaborators need to do more to them. They can be accessorised! But, it is not good enough to hang useless danglies on them a la Off-White. There must be more that can be attached to a pair of sneakers, but not something pseudo-useful such as Mason Margiela’s iPhone holder strapped on to boots. Sean Wotherspoon, co-founder of Round Two, “the streetwear empire”, as Vice calls it, has hooked up with Disney and adidas Originals (collabs these days are a triumvirate) to conceive the Superturf Adventure, which as the name suggests is for multiple terrains. This is, according to social media blurbs, a sustainable shoes that is “vegan”. But perhaps what is most attention-seeking is the pouch that, like a kiltie, obscures the shoelace.

It is still hard to determine the usefulness of a little bag placed down there. What does one store inside that does not need to be within reach? Isn’t a similar pouch more practical if hung to a belt loop with, say, the aid of a carabiner? Bending down to one’s feet to tie undone shoelaces is an action that attracts no attention. But, reaching out southwards to retrieve something stored away in a pouch above the foot is not only odd, it’s a bodily move few would not call elegant. Assassins might conceal a dagger in the ankle of boots, but fashion types hardly have anything to put away so far down the leg—not even unattractive Trace Together tokens! SOTD contributor Shu Xie told us that the pouch is for keeping money on days when one does not wish to carry a wallet. Mothers often tell us not to carry our wallets conspicuously as doing so is tempting to would-be thieves. Perhaps to the three brands, money on feet—an area of the body usually considered unclean, and barely acceptable to the average nose—is less tantalising or rousing to the discriminating stealer?

Mr Wotherspoon could, in fact, be considered late to the bag-on-kicks club. In March, New Balance launched the ‘Utility’ version of the X-Racer, an already handsome shoe, now equipped with two flap-top stow-away pouches—in full-grain leather (including the upper)—on each side of each shoe, like a saddle, which means you would be walking about with a total of four pouches on your feet! The mini-bag is larger on the lateral side than on the medial side, which also comes with a zipper pocket on the upper. Plenty of storage, as it appeared, but, again, what can we real carry in them, all? The E-Race Utility came in three colourways, but the white is especially striking for the Hender Scheme-ish tan pouches and the similarly hued trail shoes-inspired outsole.

New Balance X-Racer Utility

Nike Jordan LS Slide

Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top

Perhaps it was Nike that foretold the future when, in May 2018, they released the Benassi JDI ‘Fanny Pack’, a slide, with an actual bum bag in place of the wide strap. Back then, we thought the fanny pack on bare feet to be an idea better on paper than on the metatarsus. After all, the waist bag was not going to include the foot bag as member of the family. Looks like we could be wrong now that fully-functional pouches are made specifically for footwear. Before the Superturf Adventure, there was Nike’s Jordan LS Slide. This too came with a removable pouch, or what the Swoosh distinguishes as a “stash pocket“ (that’s not the only detachable part. The slide can be given a heel strap so that it becomes a sandal!). Compared to Mr Wotherspoon’s fancier version (which includes elasticised slots and a ring) for Adidas, this pouch is rather basic, something national servicemen might recognise as a rifle magazine holder.

In fact, one of the earliest to incorporate little bags to their footwear is Prada. The “catwalk” Monolith mini bag lug dole combat boot, for example, is not only eye-catching, it certain draws your attention to the logo-ed oblong bag strapped to the side of the ankles. The idea seems to have come from the brand’s bags, such as the Re-Nylon shoulder bag, which comes with a similar pouch that can be attached to the shoulder strap. Their latest high-tops under the Re-Nylon series similarly spot the “mini bag”, which itself looks like something you can buy separately from their store’s accessory counter. The success of these unusually-placed pouches has even prompted Prada to include them on unlikely items such as gloves! Unsurprisingly, serial imitator Steve Madden has their version with the pouch-strapped Tanker-P boots too. Expect other brands to follow in no time.

Sean Wotherspoon X Disney X adidas Originals Superturf Adventure SW’s availability here is not known yet. Nike Jordan LS Slide, S$129, is available at nike.com. Prada Wheel Re-Nylon high-top sneakers, $1,980, is available at Prada stores. Product photos: respective brands

Prada’s Rompers For Men

And other arm- and leg-baring pieces for the spring/summer 2022 season

The end of the tunnel is the sea. That’s Prada’s message of positivity during a pandemic, already suggested in this season’s eye-catching pop-ups. Models walked in an angular, red-lacquered, purpose-built passageway that ends in the open air of the sea. Prada calls this the “Tunnel to Joy”. The emotion isn’t so palpable, but you could almost smell the coastal salt. In the first frame of the model stepping outside, the camera pans to the ground and leather slip-ons strike the soft sand. The contrast with the red hard floor prior is immediately discernable. Come out to the outdoor (it is the seaside of Sardinia). Here, you’ll be free. Isn’t freedom the key message of Milan Fashion Week? Even with the radiant reemergence in mind, Prada has resisted the IRL fashion show. Yet, its half city, half seashore presentation isn’t bereft of the energy missed by those who have not been able to attend large-scale physical events. It has retained the sleekness, minimalism, and the vim of Prada shows.

And what do you wear to meet joy? First up, rompers, one of the key products in the likes of The Editor’s Market. For men, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons bring together shirts and shorts as onesies (top pic), all in what appears to be the shirting fabric of cotton poplin. To be sure, these are not shortened jumpsuits. They have the ease and playfulness of rompers—garments initially associated with children’s clothes. Ensuring that their leisure intention isn’t mistaken, prints are incorporated: ’50s-looking tattoo-illustrations spread randomly across. If you want something more traditionally masculine, there are a couple with bold, vertical, unbalanced stripes. Next, there are the abbreviated ‘skorts’—skirt-meets-shorts combo—that, for any wearer, are half way to donning an actual skirt. But it isn’t immediately clear, while we watched the show on our PC, if what is shown is a skirt over shorts or that the front panel hangs like an apron. Either way, the skirt component isn’t ambiguous.

There is a surprisingly large show of skin—invariably arms and a lot of legs (phew, no midriff! Well, one: he is, after all, going to the beach!). Out of the 39 looks, 33 feature shorts/skorts. We do not remember a Prada Men’s collection that had only six pairs of trousers (in the last spring/summer season—before Mr Simons came onboard—there were no shorts!). That’s just 15 percent of all the bottoms shown. Is that a prediction that men will not be buying longs next year or that they want to look like they’re in primary six all over again? For the past year, the loungewear that many people supposedly adopted is mostly associated with joggers. Even when shorts are ideal at-home wear, it is the trousers worn by runners after a run that have been in the spotlight. As guys slowly move away from the confines of WFH, could it be that shorts would be preferred, as play takes priority over professional pursuits? The potential mass adoption of shorts and the common leg-baring would no doubt bring immense joy to the environment-protection activist Ho Xiang Tian!

A Prada collection is not a Prada collection without the quirky pieces—even more, with Raf Simons in the picture. Items you would not find in an average bloke’s wardrobe: knitted mock-turtleneck bibs, square-neck tank tops, blousey sleeveless boat-neck tops, and floral hoodies. But perhaps most desirable are the accessories, in particular the head wear. The bucket hats will likely be the most trendy and trending. This season, they come with a longer triangular brim in the rear, like a bobby’s custodian helmet, worn front-to-back—and the chin straps too. Some of them have a usable triangular (coin?) pouch above that brim extension in the back (longer to shield the neck from the sun?), while others have slots in the sides to welcome the arms of sunglasses so that the eye wear may perch right on top of the head wear. Looks like, next summer, limps can go quite bare, but not heads!

Photos: Prada

At Prada, Paillettes Peek From Under Fur

The co-designers surprise and delight, making Prada possibly the best show of the Milan season

Prada, whatever (or, after all that) is said about it; however women reportedly do not appreciate their often boxy shapes, is still able to surprise, and perhaps, more importantly, delight. Heaven knows some of us need surprising and delighting. With Raf Simons onboard and together with Miuccia Prada, the partnership is proven to be formidable. The consensus is still out if the collections thus far—just three—are more Mr Simons or more Ms Prada, or if there is equal input from both sides. What Pradaness is, as a result, was poser of the last womenswear collection. Now we could also ask, what is Rafness? It is not an easy question to answer, even when we could clearly see Mr Simons’s deft hands in the designs. But does it matter if there is visible or palpable parity? This is a one plus one that equals much, much more.

Hints of what was to come in the womenswear were already there in the men’s January show. One particular item stands out: the jacquard knit. How a simple idea can be worked into so many aspects of the garments feeds the imagination and gives pleasure to the senses. In less deft hands, the knits—expanding beyond the long johns of the men’s collection—could have been deemed laughable cheesiness. But both designers have the ability to turn even the most banal (the more the merrier?) into elements that lend themselves easily to both elegance and quirkiness. The jacquard knits sport Prada’s love for off-beat patterns and equally unexpected colours. We love how they appear not just as individual garments and accessories and hosiery, but as details, such as collars, bodices, and lining. If one can have a spot of colour for interest, one can have the same with patterns too.

And that is why we always derive much pleasure and joy from a Prada show (this time in a Rem Koolhaas-designed confines that are almost identical to the men’s). Convention is not key to their presentation. Although this is not an IRL staging, it isn’t short on the energy that pre-pandemic shows projected. The models walk into rooms and the cameras trail them, allowing us to catch the details of the garments, or follow them, a la Tsai Ming-liang’s (蔡明亮) camerawork, from behind, like the model before. We can see the details paid to the back of the clothes, such as the inverted triangle—now without the Prada font—fashioned out of said jacquard knits. In such pursuit, we also see the models disappear into a dark ante-room, which we were later allowed in, where they, under strobe lights, went about what they do off-stage, as if unaware of the presence of a filming camera. They could move in the clothes!

It is hard to say where one might wear these clothes to. How do we categorise them? It is easy to say that those sequinned dresses could be for a party, but how many bashes or shindigs do we foresee even in the near future? It is said people want to have fun with fashion again and to dress up (lounge wear fatigue?), but Prada showed bodysuits, which seem the more fetching alternative to sweats. It is appreciable that regardless of how changed our shopping habits now are, Prada has kept the fashion aspects of the collection elevated, a mission that hasn’t waned since the birth of their women’s RTW in 1989. That the eyes can see things and pairings not witness before attest to Prada’s unrelenting commitment to not only innovation and creativity, but, ultimately, design. With Mr Simons onboard, it can get only more inspiring and the increasingly undervalued quality, exciting.

This collection isn’t for everyone—Prada has never tried to cater to every taste. Even their power suits that opened the show, worn with the sleeves pushed up as if the wearers are to embark on something laborious or, hopefully not, a fight, have a whiff of going against the power structures of fashion-consuming society or the increasingly constricted ideas of what is feminine style. We like that dresses can be worn with the (additional) ease of a pullover—the jacquard necklines and bodices see to that. Or that fur, although fake, need not look like cast-offs of wealthy women who amassed them in the ’70s and ’80s, or like they may incur the wrath of PETA. This is a collection that one either understands or does not. It isn’t conceived with the designers’ friends in mind. This has, to a degree, intellectual heft, but not without a sense of humour, and clearly not without a sense of fun.

Ultimately, Prada allows us to have taste, at a time when taste has become generic, social-media sensation, or, worse, “fashion girl-approved”. Or, to make us feel that it’s okay to like clothes that are not birthed from conventional thinking, or strictly from algorithms or sales data. That it’s really fine to align ourselves with a brand that is not under the grips of the past or the cromulent, to borrow from the world of The Simpsons. An SOTD reader, usually an admirer of more attention-grabbing or meretricious styles, texted us to say, “I even like Prada.” That can only be wonderful.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Prada