Miuccia Prada came home to the Nineties — and to black nylon, the fabric that made the brand’s name at the start of the decade. But while Prada may have looked back, her gaze remained fixed on a future when fashion’s current fixation with embellishment, sparkle and tufts of fur will start to look as gaudy and overwrought as a Las Vegas Christmas tree and discretion, recycled clothing and practical accessories will start to look fresh again.
Before the show Prada said she wanted to return to the “utilitarian, rational and industrial soul” of the brand and was thinking about the uniform. “The idea was to use utilitarian or sporty things in a very elegant way. I have a passion for nylon — a love I could die for. Nylon is the emblem of the industrial side and when we started doing it, it was completely unusual.”
The bleakness of this collection was a jolt — a refreshing one — at a time when men’s wear has either been all about blasts of color, pattern and shine or pared-down skater sweatshirts. Prada hit it hard, sending out street-y silhouettes made from layers of black nylon: Padded hoodies with wide zipper pockets, snap-front jackets, baggy trousers and rain caps, all with the classic triangle logo.
Models tread an industrial metal catwalk in a warehouse stacked with storage crates covered in freshly minted Prada logos — black roosters or bugs, crowns, tiaras, retro takes on the brand name or the word Adarp, Prada spelled backwards.
The oversized and layered street looks morphed into tailored ones with men styled to look like schlubby, low-level managers or badly paid private detectives, with ID cards pinned to their suit pockets or dangling from necks. Their sharp, boxy suits were layered over knits with micro-geometric patterns in a retro Prada palette of mustard, mud brown, orange and blue, while others looked as if they were slashed, resewn or subtly patched here and there with a contrasting fabric.
Accessories, too, were all work, work, work, and included that classic Nineties staple the messenger bag in nylon or leather, some with logos, others with transparent panels for ID cards. Sturdy, square and structured backpacks jostled alongside small, dark and discreet leather bags.
Coats were big and sculptural, with rounded shoulders and with a clear, plastic-y film around the hemline. Like the nylon, the prints were pulled from days past, with Prada cutting up her lipstick, flower and abstract checkerboard and ring prints to create darkly exotic Hawaiian-style shirts and shorts — just a day after the U.S. state made headlines with its ballistic missile blooper.
The women’s pre-fall collection mixed in mirrored the men’s, with an emphasis on rounded shoulder coats and jackets worn over dresses or skirts, although here there were versions in camel, red and violet. The women’s wear also offered the same clashing prints in sweaters, blouses and skirts as the men’s, while most of the shoes were bare-toed, spike-heeled, calf-high boots.
Maybe Prada really can see into the future — and to tougher times, like the Nineties, when it paid to be smart, creative and frugal, with grace.