Old-fashioned glamour meets psychedelic print as Prada shines in Milan

A Prada catwalk show is not supposed to be easy on the eye, and the latest womenswear collection broadcast from Milan’s digital fashion week was no exception. Wearing psychedelic-print bodysuits and with their hair oiled into sideburns, models marched through interlocking windowless rooms where Muppet faux fur sprouted in place of wallpaper. As an entertainment experience, it was less like sitting front row at an upmarket catwalk show, and more like putting on a headset for a virtual reality game with an elegantly but eccentrically dressed avatar.

A psychedelic-print bodysuits from the Prada catwalk
Simons said the psychedelic bodysuits could be for going out dancing, or for yoga at home. Photograph: Prada/Reuters

Nowhere does beautifully strange quite as well as Prada. These clothes are a collaboration between its longstanding designer Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, who joined last year. The pivot to digital shows has been a challenge for the designer Prada, who until recently did not own a computer. But she has what Rem Koolhaas, the architect who designed the show set, regards as an unusually intelligent way of channelling aversion. “Hers is an unusual form of dislike, in which you explore why you dislike something and then you do something with that energy,” he said in an online discussion held after the show.

A jobshare at this elite level has never before been attempted in fashion. (As a parallel, imagine if Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton announced that in future they would co-direct all their films.) In a joint Zoom interview, the pair seemed in synergy. Asked what direction fashion will take this year, Simons said: “Here is a feeling we all have about wanting to be in the world again. We are in the mood for fashion. We are in the mood for sharing with other people.” The sprayed-on bodysuits, he said, could be for going out dancing, or for yoga at home. Prada agreed that “something is mounting. Some desire, some excitement. I personally would like to control it because it’s probably not correct, but it’s there.”

The jewels of the collection were tailored coats and soft stoles lined with faux fur, or crusted with sequins. The old-fashioned glamour of a stole is an unexpected element in such a modernist aesthetic, but it is a garment which, Prada says, “passes the exam of time” – to wrap a shawl around the shoulders “is a gesture I reach for in the studio, when I desire comfort but also elegance”.

Models gather for the finale of the Max Mara show in Milan
Models gather for the finale of the Max Mara show in Milan. Photograph: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Max Mara

Meanwhile, “classic but not starchy” was the mood Ian Griffiths, the British designer of Max Mara, wanted for this season. Spending lockdown working from his Suffolk cottage “in tweeds and wax jackets and walking boots” made him appreciate the practical chic of British outdoor clothing. “Looking back at past shows, we’ve often sent out armies of monotone women with the same kind of style imprinted on each. In this show, each look had its own personality,” he said of a collection that included “thornproof” jackets in alpaca wool, quilted bombers, horse-blanket plaids, and sturdy shoes worn with ribbed wool socks.


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