Prada’s Instagram tagline reads “thinking fashion since 1913” and there’s little doubt that Miuccia Prada is still responsible for many of fashion’s big ideas. This means every detail in a Prada show, such as a change invenue, matters.
Rather than the usual venue at the back of the company’s HQ, where the show has been held for decades, the autumn/winter Prada menswear 2018 show on Sunday night took place in the warehouse behind the Fondazione Prada, the gallery the brand opened in 1995.
Guests walked through the plastic curtains usually found in abattoirs to find glasses of prosecco and the now-familiar conceptual canapés like two squares of dark chocolate on spongy white bread. A new venue it may be, but the Prada-isms remain.
The show itself could be seen as a series of Prada-isms in clothes. It wasn’t quite a greatest hits, but fans would have recognised much-loved prints like the bananas from 2011 and the lipsticks from 2000 spliced on shirts, knitwear and cagoules and worn by male and female models.
The black nylon that originally made Prada the darling of fashion in the 1990s was reworked through pieces made in collaboration with four different blue-chip architects and industrial designers, including Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron.
An introduction included in the invite said the project showcased “approaches that investigate the poetic, practical, technical and aesthetic aspect of nylon”. The most poetic may have been Koolhaas’s – a bag worn strapped to the model’s chest like a reverse jetpack. In amongst the memory lane there was – as always – a comment on the way we live now. With the backdrop of a warehouse, Prada used the tropes of business on an industrial scale and the anonymity of corporate culture.
Models wore Prada versions of the access cards used to get into offices on their chests and they carried messenger bags. Some models even had the layering of a working day in January: a shirt with a tie worn with padded gilet, blazer and mac. The mood for this part of the collection was equal parts Mr Robot’s eCorp, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs.
Prada, dressed in a lemon-yellow mac and grey V neck, said the characters in the show were inspired by thinking what was in the crates around the venue. “Maybe there is strange mysteries,” she said. “We created the idea of species. We are also suggesting the idea that we are all controlled.” She described the look as “like a uniform. Even if the pieces were utilitarian, they didn’t look too street, they looked elegant.”
The designer, who holds a PhD in political science, then got into her favourite topic: the state of the world today and fashion’s role within it. “Sometimes I see politics on the news I am scared, but you have to go on,” she said. “So many people say beauty will save the world. I don’t believe that is so … but, of course, aesthetic helps.” Especially when that aesthetic is designed by Prada. The brand has recently prioritised digital as a way to boost sales, after initially resisting the rise of online.
In December , Prada launched a new e-commerce platform in China and it will be rolled out to other territories this month. Chiara Tosato, general manager and digital e-commerce director, has said she wants digital to account for 5% of sales by the end of 2018. This remains below the average for others in the same market,which is usually about 10%.
This digital push is connected to Prada’s financial performance. The Italian brand missed analysts predictions of growth in the most recent financial results in 2017, with net income at €115.7m (£102.84m) in the first half, compared with the €143m predicted.
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