MILAN — Who would have guessed Miuccia Prada drank hot water before her breakfast — a healthy habit of a lifetime ingrained by her mother? And Raf Simons? Coffee in the morning and Coca-Cola Zero throughout the day (which, he admitted, “is not that healthy”).
These were some of the tidbits offered by the designers on their day of firsts. On Thursday, they debuted as co-creative directors of the Prada brand, presenting a digital show of their spring 2021 collection, followed by a streamed session during which they responded to questions sent to the company’s web site over the past couple of days. Prada and Simons sat, socially distanced, on two benches (a face mask sat on the bench beside Prada) in a carpeted theater-like room with drapes on the wall and a large screen between them on which the questions were displayed.
Given the streaming of the show, Prada emphasized the relation between technology, machine and the models, and the impact the former has. This technology has helped them show the clothes at a time of social distancing, but Prada took the time to emphasize how important sustainability and inclusivity also are for companies and how each person should embrace them.
While the two designers revealed in February the decision to start on this path together, the conversation shed more light on their relationship, and when the idea of working together took shape. Prada said it was a spontaneous decision, brewing over time “and suddenly it happened.” Simons said they had “always been interested in each other’s work,” and thanked Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli for offering him the opportunity to design Jil Sander, his “introduction to women’s,” when the brand was controlled by the couple’s group.
Responding to a question that is surely on everyone’s mind, Simons said it was “very natural” to work with Prada and that he felt “at ease.” Prada reinforced that by saying that “it’s easier to share” and it’s “more interesting,” even though she admitted “it takes more energy.” They each said they felt strengthened in their decisions by the approval and conviction of the other.
More dialogue may impact timing, admitted Simons, but “so far” it has worked. The lockdown slowed down Simons’ arrival at the company, with “little time to work together,” said Prada, looking forward to spending more time with the Belgian designer. She candidly said this was just “the beginning, we need time to develop and we don’t know where we are going.”
Asked about the idea of newness in fashion, Prada admitted “it is the nightmare of every designer,” but she feels that “it is not so relevant anymore and that newness for the sake of it doesn’t sound like the most important thing,” underscoring that it is “impossible” to create something entirely new — unless there is some kind of revolutionary moment, which led, for example, to the invention of the miniskirt. And it is up to fashion to be “part of creating the changes, you just don’t wake up in the morning and design, you need to do something that makes sense and it comes from society.” Designers need to “react to reality and what is happening,” she contended.
“Every designer wants to be new,” said Simons, but he believes that, after a considerable body of work and time in the business, it’s very important to “refresh” one’s own designs. It is up to the new generation of designers to strive for newness, he argued.
The collaboration could very much benefit from what Simons believes is his “outsider watch” and input, said Prada.
The Italian designer lit up when she answered a question from a 10-year-old student who said she was passionate about fashion and wanted to pursue a career as a designer and asked for advice. Raising her hand to respond, with a big smile, she said: “Study, study, study. Learn, watch movies, look at art, literature. Clothing serves to make you live better, it’s not an abstract job, it has to be useful and help define your personality. It’s an instrument for your life.”
Simons instead was excited by a question on uniforms, expressing his personal passion for them, stressing, however, “not army or police uniforms, but metaphorical ones.” He believes Prada dresses in uniforms and his own is “black Prada pants — not because I work here, but I have worn them for so long — and a shirt.” On top of the uniform he described, he was wearing an oversized, textured gray sweater.
For Prada, on the other hand, the uniform may change, depending on the moment. Right now, it’s a white pleated cotton skirt and a blue sweater — exactly what she was wearing during the conversation. In any case, another rule of thumb for Prada is that clothes “should not distract from thinking.”
The designers expressed the importance of being connected not only to one another but to people, which makes their job “more interesting.”
“Everything is new,” said a beaming Prada, concluding the conversation with an upbeat take on the beginning at the company.