The future of Prada is more logos, tapping the house’s archive, and more sportswear and art references, the debut collection of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons suggests.
Early signs show its working: the brand’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection was the Italian brand’s most viewed digital event ever, with 48 million views on popular social sites Douyin and Weibo in China, and 58 million overall, 16 times more views versus last year’s womenswear show. Prada’s 35 minute video, including a Questions and Answers session with Prada and Simons, was a new format, and streamed on TikTok for the first time ever, as well as Instagram and Prada.com, with physical viewing events in key markets with influencers and celebrities.
The Italian show was one of the most highly anticipated at this season’s Milan Fashion Week along with Valentino’s Milan return and Silvia Venturini Fendi’s final womenswear fashion show at the helm of the family’s brand. The partnership with Prada and Simons, two highly-regarded industry veterans sharing equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making, is an unusual move in top fashion houses, who typically bet on dramatic designer changes to revive heritage brands that haven’t always bore the desired fruits. Instead, Prada, while struggling short-term with Covid-19 store closures and a €180 million loss in the first six months of 2020, had been showing momentum as it stopped markdowns and clawed back the number of wholesale accounts.
“I think that now that Prada is becoming hotter and has a good momentum it will be well received,” says Susy Tibaldi, equity research analyst of luxury goods at UBS. She also praised the stronger use of logos not typical in Prada’s collection, that consumers, particularly Asian consumers, buy into. “If you splash a big logo on a brand that is not so cool, it’s not going to sell. We’ve seen that Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Dior have done extremely well with logos. It makes sense to try it.”
© Courtesy of Prada
The anticipation around the Prada-Simons’s debut wasn’t only about the clothes; it was apprehension over whether two of fashion’s most beloved names could work collaboratively under the same label. Miuccia Prada, more known for her quirkiness and avoidance of trends, matched with Raf’s graphic aesthetic, and both designers said the collaboration strengthened their decision-making and that they felt consoled by sharing and liking the same ideas.
“I can only say to me it comes very natural,” said Simons during the post-show Q&A, answering a question about the work dynamic between himself and Prada. “It’s easier emotionally, psychologically and intellectually.”
“This is a beginning, and we will have time to create any kind of collaborations,” said Mrs Prada. “That’s the beauty of it, that we don’t know where we are going.”
But some were anticipating a greater aesthetic shift. “It was expected that the appointment of Raf Simons would bring a new creative direction to the brand,” says Benjamin Simmenauer, professor in fashion and brand strategy at Institut Français de la Mode. “When you announce such a partnership, people naturally think that a reboot of the brand will follow. The collection itself is surprisingly low profile if I may say so. A lot of silhouettes look familiar.” The tailoring was “beautifully executed”, but the printed streetwear was not “groundbreaking”, he added.
Presented digitally without a live audience in a yellow-tinted space with cameras and monitors dangling from the ceiling, the collection of 40 looks explored the notion of uniform through paired-back shell tops and straight pants, enveloping overcoats and wraps and high-waisted skirts paired-up with soft knits, much in the style of the look Prada herself was sporting during the live question and answer session. Prada’s signature triangle logo was altered and intermingled with artworks created by Peter De Potter, often laid over archival Prada prints.
The digital show in Milan was also buoyed by physical events including local private screenings and virtual viewing events globally in New York, Shanghai, Tokyo and others. Lorenzo Bertelli, head of marketing and CSR said the event was aimed to be “inclusive” with questions submitted globally, and the 58 million total was “an outstanding result,” in a statement. In August, Louis Vuitton said Virgil Abloh’s menswear show livestreamed in Shanghai reached 100 million views globally.
For Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director of Mytheresa, who travelled to Milan for the shows, the utilitarian outerwear and Simons’s signature prints, in particular the blown-up Prada logos, stood out. “It’s the core of Miuccia’s sophistication and romance with Raf’s standout graphics, which takes the branding to a new level.”
“I loved the fusion of Prada’s house codes with Raf Simons’s DNA,” says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear at Browns, pointing to the continued and prominent use of both Prada’s logo and Raf’s signature cutouts. Gramston highlights the introduction of sportier shapes together with the declination of utility as eveningwear, like tailored suits paired with regenerated nylon shawls, updated versions of Prada’s classic backpack and tote and the ubiquity of the kitten heel. “Overall, [the collection] had a younger, sleeker feel with a nod to refined sportswear.”
Despite new Covid-19 cases remaining relatively under control in Italy compared to other European countries, 41 out of 64 Milan Fashion Week shows are happening in digital format, including household names like Prada, Versace and Giorgio Armani.
“It’s definitely quieter than usual and the normal buzz is not really there,” says Hsu, adding that going to physical shows is “not a problem” as social distancing and organisation are making it safe. According to Carlo Capasa, president of Camera della Moda, the showcase this season attracted around 150 foreign journalists, plus buyers.
“I am absolutely planning on buying it. I really liked it, everything from the casting, to the set design, to the way it was filmed, perfectly encapsulated a shift in focus aimed at youth and inclusivity,” says Reece Crisp, head of buying, creative and styling at LN-CC, the London boutique. “Obsessive fans of both Raf and Miuccia will be able to pick out the nods to each of their design archives, but nothing felt out of place on this Prada catwalk. This was two voices, harmonised and heard as one. It will be highly sought-after, and most definitely one that will gather more significance over time, so I think people will be willing to invest more.”
Sources from: Vogue Business