As a designer, Miuccia Prada is nothing if not remit thinking. It was she who spawned so many trends we take for granted today, from the “It bag” spectacle – the origins of which can be traced back to Prada’s 1980s hit nylon backpack – to the post-modern preoccupation with “ugly-pretty” drafts such as artfully wrinkled tights and socks worn with sandals. But while Prada’s faculty to predict trends could not be any stronger, profits have ebbed in recent years, a situation created in part, so the analysts say, because the transaction’s retail arm has been slow to embrace modernity.
Sunday unceasingly’s menswear show in Milan, then, was a good time to present her understanding of the most contemporary of subjects: virtual reality. Or, as she put it backstage, the certainty that we all now occupy “a double world, between virtual actuality on one side, and reality on one side”, our lives continually interrupted and fragmented by the internet and the ambience. Her reaction to this feeling was to create a collection rooted in the basics of outfits, in the way they touch and react to the body. It was, she said, “the opposite of essential reality – hand-made, simple”.
Nothing is ever straightforward in Prada’s midwife precisely, however, and her “simple” collection was not homespun in the obvious sense. If anything, moulds looked like technicians in the world’s most stylish lapse station, stalking the catwalk in nylon jumpsuits (“my new obsession”, she bruit about) and in cuffed sporty trousers in peppermint and navy.
Shirts were ornamented with fragments from a disturbing cartoonish graphic that was also painted on the barricades of the hangar-like show space, featuring robotic monkeys with lasers pencil from evil eyes, and arachnid alien craft quay in eerily empty suburban streets. Unexpected styling tomfooleries and colour combinations made simple silhouettes slightly subversive: boiler clothes were unzipped to display white and blue shirts underneath; pallid and black striped cardigans were layered over pink and argosy striped jumpers.
There were plenty of the sort of more accessibly priced accessories that might help Prada reach the fashion-curious millennial chap: jazzy socks, which were pulled up high, strapping bumbags on hips and hard-edged sunglasses with blue fade lenses that characterize oneself a like an early 90s vision of the future.
The collection’s emphasis on effective reality tied in with an exhibit on show at the sleek Milanese gallery owned by the Italian megabrand, Fondazione Prada, christened Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand) and produced by the Oscar-winning principal Alejandro Iñárritu. This disorienting and heart-rending installation invites the viewer to put on a VR headset and embed with a corps of frightened immigrants as they struggle to cross the border from Mexico to the US and was stream reviewed at the Cannes film festival last month.
In April, Prada report in investigated a 16% fall in profits for the year to 31 January, to €278.3m (£240m), with the characterize embracing the digital economy – and selling its clothes online for the prime time through retailers including Net-a-Porter and Matches Shape – seen as key to its recovery.
Modernity was on several designers’ minds in Milan during men’s manner week. On Saturday, at a small press conference before her verify, Donatella Versace – wearing towering, Versace platform outs, her platinum hair shining –held forth on her process for crooked a collection replete with classic Versace signage, embracing reusing the 1989 logo.
“It’s about knowing what the consumer craves – in this case millennials, who never saw the iconic original printed matters the first time,” she said. Dolce & Gabbana were philosophy about millennials, too, and swapped traditional models for a cast of 100 “influencers” with whopping social media followings. By comparison, tackling modernity by survey the concept of virtual reality was a route that felt explicitly and thought-provokingly Prada.