The arrival of the Belgian Raf Simons as co-creative director to Miuccia Prada at her Italian brand brings together two of fashion’s most original and esoteric designers.
Their debut as a doubles partnership, the first time two such established names have teamed up as equals, came during Milan fashion week, but was made online, with a filmed show followed by a live interview in which the two designers responded to questions sent by members of the public.
The clothes were prettier and the mood brighter than might have been expected. Both designers view fashion as an intellectual art form rather than a decorative one, and tackle social and political issues on their catwalks.
During his recent spell at Calvin Klein, Simons turned his New York fashion week shows into a dystopian commentary on the American dream in the age of Trump. But against a simple backdrop of sunshine-yellow drapes came a procession of vintage-couture shapes and elegant silhouettes, worn with pastel satin kitten heels.
If there was any power struggle within the partnership – both Simons and Prada were keen to stress in their interview that there was not – then a first glance would suggest Prada would seem to have the upper hand.
The triangular Prada logo took pride of place, on earrings that looked immediately waiting-list worthy and breastplate-sized on T-shirts. Nylon, the bricks-and-mortar of Prada since it was rebuilt on the back of cult 90s handbags, was everywhere. But the bones of the collection bore Simon’s handwriting.
Soft coats falling off the shoulders and clutched at the lapels recalled Simons’ time at Jil Sander, when his finale collection featured similar looks. Long hemlines and willowy shapes also suggested Simons’ hand, Prada’s silhouette having tended to be squarer and shorter than the fashion norm. The result was harmonious, wearable and will please fans of both designers, although its chic understatement may not immediately wow the new generation of millennial shoppers whom Prada needs to win over.
The film was clean and simple, just the models – each one an unknown making her catwalk debut – and the camera rig, which was part of the set rather than being hidden away. Their interview radiated mutual respect, even with the pair seated separately as social distancing dictates. Simons cited Prada’s own personal style – as ever, a pleated skirt and a simple sweater – as a core inspiration for the collection.