Whoa! Miuccia Prada had a lot on her mind for her spring collection. At least according to the way her pre-show press conference went (reported here as translated from Italian).
Prada opened by musing rhetorically about the woes of oversimplification. “Do you want fashion to be a hashtag? Much like politics?” she queried. “That’s how you rule a country now…hashtags. Because right now, politics have been reduced to hashtags” — to whom might she have referred? — “and fashion shouldn’t follow this excessive simplification, because the more you simplify, the more slogan you use, the less content there is.”
She closed the session with a defense of the fashion industry in response to a question about a New York Times article, published today. “Inside Italy’s Shadow Economy” is about at-home workers for major luxury brands, sometimes making as little as one euro an hour. “The real world is complicated,” Prada said, with countless woes — hunger, pollution, corruption, so let’s not just dump on fashion. “Fashion has its own faults, but…not only fashion is guilty. We are all guilty, and then it’s a gradual process. It’s right to fight, but we need a bit of time…,” she said.
“Nobody is a saint; everybody tries to do the best, but raging with fashion only — it’s wrong.”
Fascinating, provocative stuff. Now, Miuccia, about those pants?
In between Trump and worker exploitation, Prada focused on sartorial simplification in the context of dialogue. “As for the fashion show, what I’m really concerned about right now is the extreme difference between dreams of freedom, of fantasy, of nudity, and a more and more extreme observation,” she said. If exactly what she meant by “more extreme observation” got muffled in translation, the collection featured an obvious juxtaposition between plain and not plain. The plain, or “observing” side, which Prada “would have called bourgeois a few years ago,” stood in contrast to the “psychedelic” part. She rendered the first in all solid fabrics and the second, in prints — bold, yes, but not of the sort that typically connotes psychedelia — Eastern motifs, tie-dyes, chainlike graphics, city- and country-scape pictorials. The prints were fabulous, particularly the tie-dyes and scenics, very different yet equally mesmerizing. The stiff, solid satins, chiffons and cottons were more mundane, a reality not lost on the designer.
Prada repeated silhouettes between the two perspectives. They came in the tough-chic austerity of high-neck satin shirts and trouser shorts; stiff, short trapeze dresses (a chic babydoll look, though not technically babydolls), and fabulous coats. As for that fantasy of nudity, sheer shirtdresses wafted over discreet briefs, A-line skirts side-wrapped over plunging maillots, and sweaters were cut out at the throat, back and sleeves. (Lo, these many years later, to some of us, a naked elbow through a sweater slit still rings of Prada’s old employee, Helmut Lang.)
Sitting there, one thought of the collection as both typical and atypical of Prada. The austere minimalist side referenced Prada’s early ethos, before she became hyper experimental and prone to the dissonant decorative flourish; the pictorial prints and rare digression with giant paillettes recalled later career moments. Yet the logos and swimwear and sock shoes, though none of itself antithetical to Prada, here found her unfamiliar territory: trend surfing. Ultimately, this was a collection of exquisitely executed, covetable, on-trend merch.
These are strange times for fashion. During her press conference, Prada made no bones about being in a quandary over how to deal with today. “I’m trying to simplify,” said the woman who only a few years ago adorned her runway with dresses featuring stunningly bejeweled portraiture, calling the process an industry-wide necessity. “I’m trying to simplify because eccentric pieces aren’t worn by many people….Maybe we should all lower our expectations. Because if you cross the line, people don’t care. And fashion needs people. It needs people who care.” That from Miuccia Prada — one of the boldest, most fearless fashion designers of all time. And a woman who can read the room.