The coming together of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons at Prada has been one of the most exiting fashion developments in recent memory. The partnership yielded its first menswear collection for fall/winter 2021: A tight edit of 42 looks that bring together the signatures of both designers’ decades-long careers. The slim, sharp tailoring that opened the show has been a mainstay at both labels, just like the oversize outerwear that came after.
Both Prada and Simons have also often touched on a certain sense of tenderness in menswear—translated here into boys wearing not much more than soft, clingy undergarments. Some elements, such as the ugly-chic geometric prints, feel purely Prada; others, such as the brilliantly coloured bomber jackets and boucle coats, seem more reflective of Simons’s oeuvre. But overall, there is an undeniable synergy that demonstrates just how in sync these two designers had been even before this official collaboration.
For this collection, both designers agreed that it shouldn’t be about any grand concept or elaborate narrative, but rather, about a certain feeling. Where the first women’s collection was about the duo defining a new Prada uniform, this collection, according to Simons, is “about the tactility and the literal, physical feeling clothes can have”.
Thus, silhouettes that hug and envelop the body, and fabrications that range from plush to glossy. “We were thinking about aspects such as comfort, protection and beauty in general. For that reason, this collection deals with juxtapositions of colour, of softness and hardness—to express the reality of the world and at the same time, the possible feelings that everybody has had, dealing with so much isolation,” adds Simons.
In a subversive twist, the collection is built on a foundation piece that last saw its heyday in the previous century: Long johns. Extended into full-coverage bodysuits here and brought to the fore, they are an unlikely yet utterly natural extension of the loungewear that has taken over our wardrobes this past year. Prada elaborates: “It’s interesting because it was a uniformity in the show, but long johns are definitely not a uniform. It’s not very often you find something in fashion that is so flexible, with so many facets—with this one thing, you can express so many things.”
The duo continued building on the idea of a foundational garment in their follow-up collection, for spring/summer 2022. Here, the long johns give way to a little romper suit—a blank canvas on which the designers projected their vision of a world opening up again, a light at the end of the tunnel (which they made literal by having their models walk out from a tunnel and onto a sun drenched beach). Less about how clothes feel and more about how they can make one feel, the collection pushes the concept of summer dressing to a whole new level while referencing an entirely different set of classic Prada and Simons codes. It is a masterful balance between looking back and marching forward, and a promising sign of greater things to come from this power pairing.
This article was originally published in Harpers Bazaar.