With Kim Kardashian in the front row and her half sister Kendall Jenner on the catwalk – a resurgent Prada is flexing its muscles, as the big hitters of Italian fashion jostle for position in the post-pandemic era.
With Gucci returning to the city’s fashion week for the first time since February 2020 and Giorgio Armani, who cancelled two January events during the Omicron surge, throwing his hat back into the ring with two shows, the competitive edge has returned to Milan’s catwalks.
Miuccia Prada, ever the maverick of this group, has declared herself tired of fashion history. She cares about “the history of women, the history of people, not the history of fashion”, she said before Thursday’s show. Simple Marlon Brando-style white cotton vests turned up in no less than 15 of the catwalk looks, while a pair of cotton pyjamas with the show address printed on the breast pocket served as the invitation for the event. The concept: a celebration of intimate, everyday clothes that don’t scream status or glamour.
But Prada has always delighted in contradictions and the showstopper tailored coats embellished with pastel feathers on the upper sleeve – a captain’s armband, but make it cocktail – pointed to plenty of fashion ambition.
Now a design partnership in which Miuccia Prada shares design duties with Raf Simons, the label’s retail sales were up 18% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2019. Prada’s husband and business partner, Patrizio Bertelli, recently indicated that a succession plan was in place to hand over the reins of the company to their son, Lorenzo, within the next five years.
The job of fashion, Simons believes, is “to define our idea of beauty today”. In its mashup of the lo-fi (cotton vests and nylon parkas) and the ultra-glamorous (Kardashians and feather trims), this collection was Prada doing what it does best: using fashion to hold a mirror to the contradictions of how we live now.
The show was dotted with Prada in-jokes. The famous triangle logo twinkled from the toes of shoes and at the collar of an evening dress, while the skirt-and-sweater as a look – a staple of Prada greatest hits and of Miuccia’s own wardrobe – made several catwalk turns.
I’ll be your mirror: MaxMara glad old orthodoxy nearing end
Ian Griffiths, the British designer of MaxMara, cast models of a range of body sizes and ages to wear autumn’s teddy bear fake fur coats and ultra wide-leg trousers at his show. “I want to create a rapport with the woman watching, who should see herself reflected in the catwalk. I want to hold up a mirror and say – yes, this is aspirational, but it is also about you.”
Backstage after the show, he said: “The days when designers would say, ‘I want to do a show with only blondes.’ I can’t imagine going back to that world now.”
Griffiths added that the rise of Kate Moss, who challenged the orthodoxy that only very tall women could be successful catwalk models, “was the beginning of the end of a system, which I’m glad to say is now breaking down”.