MILAN — In August, Italy’s Camera della Moda issued a preliminary Milan Fashion Week calendar with 28 physical shows out of more than 50 events and slated to run Sept. 22 to 28. Fendi’s first coed show will be held on Sept. 23, and the following day, expectations are bound to be high as Raf Simons will debut at Prada as co-creative director with Miuccia Prada.
While retailers and analysts at the time enthused about the potential of the tie-up, which could also help rejuvenate the brand and further diversify the product offer, some observers wondered how two strong-willed designers — and an equally forceful chief executive officer, Patrizio Bertelli — will share the workload and if this could signal a change in ownership. The company has been the subject of takeover rumors, which Prada officials have repeatedly denied. At the time, asked if she was eyeing retirement at some point, Prada brushed off the suggestion, emphasizing how she felt the need to reinforce the creativity in her company with the arrival of Simons.
Simons, who has also done stints as the creative director of Christian Dior in Paris, and Calvin Klein in New York, said that his namesake label will continue to exist in tandem with the Prada project.
The partnership underscored the strong relationship between Simons and the Prada Group, which had originally tapped him to become creative director of Jil Sander in 2005, when the Italian group owned that brand, and the mutual respect and friendship between Miuccia Prada and the Belgian designer, who share a similar daring aesthetic and a passion for contemporary art.
Simons’ challenge will be to continue improving the performance of Prada, which is publicly listed in Hong Kong, while boosting the brand’s creative streak.
In the first half of fiscal 2019-20, the Prada brand grew 4 percent to 1.28 billion euros, accounting for 83 percent of total group sales, with largely positive full-price retail sales throughout the period. At the end of July, Bertelli said he saw a further shift into luxury for Prada.
Meanwhile, over at Prada rival Gucci, Alessandro Michele has also been focusing on creativity, promising a new path for the brand after his Epilogue collection was presented in July.
As reported, Gucci will sit out Milan Fashion Week as a consequence of trimming its number of shows to two a year as creative director Michele challenges the industry’s vocabulary and opts for “bringing oxygen” to his creativity. One consequence is that the label will not be ready to show in September.
Five years after his debut at Gucci, in the midst of the global pandemic, Michele has abandoned what he has called “the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows to regain a new cadence, closer to my expressive call. We will meet just twice a year, to share the chapters of a new story.”
Conceiving new names for the collections and inspired by the music world, Michele in July presented what would have traditionally been called a cruise collection and that was dubbed “Epilogue,” worn by people from his office instead of models, a project that included a 12-hour livestream.
Epilogue is the conclusive chapter in Michele’s narrative that began with his fall show presented last February in Milan, which was dedicated to the multitiered ritual of designing, making, staging and viewing a fashion show.
He said he wanted to close what he calls “a trilogy of love,” which kicked off with the February show and continued with the fall 2020 advertising campaign. But at the same time he aimed to open a new door on the future of the brand.
“In this sense, the epilogue that I deliver to you today really feels like an overture. A watershed that closes and opens at the same time, a threshold of a new beginning, from which we try to imagine our tomorrow,” Michele wrote in the show notes.