Jun 19, 2023

At Prada Men’s, Miuccia and Raf Rewrite the Rules of Tailoring

A roar went up from the audience of the Spring/Summer 2024 Prada menswear show when the pyrotechnics of the space really kicked into gear: from a metallic grate hanging overhead in the Deposito of the Fondazione Prada, great globs of slime began to ooze, forming organic veils of transparency that partially obscured the models from the audience. They were a neat underlining of what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons were thinking about this season: fluid architecture, here reflected quite literally. But the architecture Prada and Simons were obsessed with were built into the clothes themselves: a questioning of purpose, of function and of appearance, in a collection where little was exactly as it first appeared.

Tailoring was the big story: a sharp, emphatic silhouette yet with the bombast totally removed, so it fluctuated lightly around the body. The construction methods were taken from shirts – seams were simple, there was none of the underpinnings or interlinings that stiffen and bombast tailoring traditionally. Everything was featherlight, and single-layer. When you felt these clothes backstage, the ease built into these previously severe-looking clothes was evident, and remarkable – there was a fragility under those superman shoulders. There were hybrid moments – a jacket may grow a spread shirt-collar, or contrast its traditional lapels with buttoned shirt-cuffs, as if the garments were morphing halfway through their existence. “How can an idea that is cliché be different?” said Simons. “The suit, the shirt. This collection is about questioning conventions, of structure and of masculinity.” “We start with the white shirt – the most simple,” added Miuccia Prada. “From that base, from a base of the most basic and normal, you can do whatever you like. It allows transformation.”

There were other transformations too: the prints literally leapt from two dimensions to three, Hawaiian patterns vibrating with fringe, like a glitching computer image, or erupting into slightly poisonous, alien-looking flowers clustered on the chests of models. Even humble pockets became a form of decoration, pock-marking shirts and waistcoats in a way that made you question their utility. Those actions chimed with the idea of reconsidering the simple and elaborating, an about-turn to Prada and Simons’ modus operandi to date of stripping back and reducing. This time, rather, they layered, added complexity. “Life and understanding of life is so complex – simplicity can be too simple,” Prada said. Even their simple starting point led to complexity – expanding the idea of the shirt to encompass an entire spectrum of male garments. And in that lightness and fluidity, there was also a new idea of masculinity – more delicate, maybe, certainly lighter and more youthful, the traditional power-loaded connotations of the suit literally ripped apart and reconstructed, to produce something that looked similar but felt entirely different, physically and emotionally.

The ultimate goal was freedom – freedom of the body and, also, freedom of design. By eschewing conventions in creating their traditional tailoring, Prada and Simons created something truly free, and modern and – dare we say the word – maybe even new. There was an idea that, although the form was familiar, its physicality was actually something we had never quite seen before. A bit like the gooey chamber it was all shown in. How rare is that?