A year ago today news was breaking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As we gathered at Prada last February, there were questions about the place of fashion amidst impending war. Some wondered if the shows should be canceled. In the time since, the world has changed in ways profound and everyday.
The white lily pin, folded origami style from humble cotton, that came with Prada’s invitation looked like it could be a marker of today’s somber anniversary, an acknowledgment of the seriousness of what has passed, but also a hope for the future. That notion seemed to be confirmed backstage, where Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, amidst a crush of supporters, talked about the act of caring. “Mainly what I care about now is to give importance to what is modest, to value modest jobs, simple jobs, and not only extreme beauty or glamour,” Prada said.
Prada has always rejected the obvious, of course; by embracing the “ugly” she has redefined what we think of as beautiful time and time again. With Simons, her instinct this season was to examine uniforms, and by extension to honor the humble, caring acts of the people who wear them. Nurses’ whites got a thorough consideration, transformed into long-line shirt dresses complete with short trains, and a trio of capes could’ve been lifted off a World War II era recruitment poster for the army nurse corps.
Military uniforms proved ripe for elevation by reinterpretation, too. Parkas came with elegant Watteau backs or were puffed into couturish cocoons. Army shirts and ties tucked into high-fitting tapered trousers looked definitive; the pants are apt to make women who’ve embraced the full-leg shape on so many other runways seriously rethink their closets.
On the skirt front, there was much more variety: minis, pencils, and voluminous swing skirts all made appearances, some accentuated with more of those origami fabric flowers. This was the flipside of the concept, Simons explained backstage: turning the embellishments you see on wedding dresses, which are another sort of uniform of care, into everyday attire. The simple crewneck sweaters in camel and charcoal gray they were paired with were effective partners in that regard.
The shirtless blazers with detachable dickey-style collars and the pillowy white down-stuffed puffers and miniskirts were evolutions of ideas they proposed in their menswear show a month ago. There too the project was to enhance reality, rather than to indulge in runway theatrics, or stir up viral social media moments, though it’s true that Charli D’Amelio, the 18-year-old TikTok phenom, was seated front-row.
Can fashion have it both ways? Can designers balance the precariousness of the world and the responsibility not just to dress their customers but to entertain? This persuasive collection provided much food for thought, and a heaping serving of new things to want to wear.
BY NICOLE PHELPS
February 23, 2023