Cathy Horyn Milan Fashion Week Spring 2022 Review: Prada

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“After everything that’s happened, how can you just go back? Miuccia Prada asked. This remark may seem confusing, even misleading, given the magnitude of the Prada show on Friday. It was actually two shows in one: a fashion show at the Prada Foundation in Milan and a duplicate in Shanghai, connected by technology and shown on screens. It must have cost millions.

Prada no return? As for the collection, it seemed the ideal visual reward after a tumultuous time: a big dose of unambiguous fashion, the size of Prada.

But the comment is actually typical of her. As her creative partner Raf Simons once told me: “Miuccia questions everything.

Let’s see how that questioning played out in this smart collection and why, perhaps more than ever, it separates Prada from its peers. The exhibition space, a cavernous industrial building in the middle of a sprawling complex, featured wooden boxes of varying heights, which had been uniformly painted gray. Digital screens were integrated into some boxes and columns and, nearby, taller flat screens. The track, also gray, snaked around them, almost like an urban highway. Indeed, the decor seemed to be an abstraction of an architectural model of a city, or of a city seen in a video game. Before the show started, the image on the screens was that of Shanghai at night, lit with neon lights.

Prada.
Photo: Courtesy of Prada

At the onset of the pandemic, European brands realized they had to depend on technology to monitor their global businesses, as well as their fragile supply chains. But, for many luxury brands, it was China that saved their bacon. An Italian CEO told me the other day that while his sales are down about 40%, mainly due to the lack of tourists in Europe, his numbers are up in China. Other companies have reported a similar reality.

Connecting Milan and Shanghai was therefore a strong gesture. A lot of the shows here felt downright insular, the old-fashioned Italian way – the same huge runways, the same branded designs. They seem as determined as the ostriches to come back as before. Look at the Versace collection. Staged last night on a long runway in Milano’s underground mall, it featured shirtless male models pulling ropes that floated a printed silk awning – I guess like a tent in the desert. The clothes, which included oversized hoodies, flowing silk pajamas and a fresh take on Gianni Versace’s now classic safety pin punk dresses, will no doubt look great in stores next spring. But that’s because they were mostly designed according to a formula. Where was the leap forward in the imagination? Any recognition that the world has changed?

Versace.
Photo: Courtesy of Versace

It is admittedly difficult for the super brands to change course. Still, that’s why the Prada show was so unnerving. Simons and Prada also adopted sexy clothes – a big theme of the New York collections, to the point of near-nudity. And after a year of jogging, with little to no physical contact, it was inevitable that the clothes would be more revealing.

But Prada and Simons did it with great consideration. They stayed high while almost everyone went down. Each gesture in the collection can be attributed to the aesthetic or personal obsession of Simons or Prada. The abundance of duchess satin for skirts with flippy and abbreviated trains? The two designers love tailoring. Train reduction aligns with Simons’ preferred form of minimalism. Prada has always loved a simple, comfortable skirt and sweater – hence the number of satin mini skirts that have appeared with almost ordinary looking sweaters and a pair of back straps.

Prada.
Photo: Courtesy of Prada

Sexy is not that interesting. Seduction is yet at the rendezvous and this is what the designers were looking for, especially with chic dresses below the knee in black, pink and neon yellow (also a pretty shade of flesh pink, in cotton, which seemed almost tinged with tea) with a slightly gathered waist and the back buttons mostly left unbuttoned to reveal a tight waistband and of course plenty of bare skin. There were also a few boned jackets in an off-white or pale pink cotton-linen blend that evoked both a corset and the muslin traditionally used by dressmakers to make their first samples. But where a corset tightens the body, these pieces were the opposite – relaxed.

Prada.
Photo: Courtesy of Prada

It was another clue. Prada and Simons cleverly tempered the couture and seductive elements with practical clothing, like the fantastic leather jackets and lightly distressed car coats that accompanied many of these foxy train skirts. The creators weren’t giving interviews this season or greeting backstage guests, due to COVID protocols, but I did happen to meet Simons in the foundation’s yard, and he said he and Prada wanted compensate for “sewing with an everyday sense”.

This is just one small but important reason why this collection was substantial, a real high fashion jerk and not a frenzy of salable clothes as usual.

Two other collections, although smaller in scope, deserve to be mentioned: Sportmax and Aspesi. Lawrence Steele, who has a long experience in Milan – he worked as a designer at Prada for many years and then started his own brand – is now the Creative Director of Aspesi, a beloved brand that dates back to the late 1960s. 1960s. The Aspesi look has always been Milan-style casual – that is, great shirts, quirky knits and casual masculine clothing – and Steele’s goal is to bring it to a wider audience. , now that the company is owned by a Roman conglomerate, rich in other industries such as shipping. The clothes, which are around 30% less expensive than the designer, are perfect in a comfortable, genderless atmosphere.

Aspesi.
Photo: Courtesy of Aspesi

Photographer Vanina Sorrenti shot the images and Camilla Nickerson styled the collection, which included tweed pantsuits, old-fashioned cardigans and a 1920s-inspired floral print for a long slip-on dress, while the modeling was carried out, among others. , son of Nickerson, Atticus Wakefield, and Joey Borthwick, son of photographer Mark Borthwick and designer Maria Cornejo. The feeling of family is therefore no accident.

Sportmax.
Photo: Courtesy of Sportmax

Although modern dance and music was the guiding source of Sportmax – namely, the work of Americans John Cage and Merce Cunningham – I was simply charmed by the lightness and deliberately messy romanticism of the collection, in large part. in ultra-feminine fabrics like white gauze and georgette. There were also fragments of corsets in some deconstructed dresses and coats, a nice nod to the past. In Europe, the past is always with you. The surprise for me – far from Milan for the past seven years – is how realistic and experimental Sportmax has become.

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