For her S/S 2013 show Miuccia Prada transformed her palace on the Via Fogazzaro into a stark white asylum-like hub. A faint buzzing sound greeted us arriving guests, giving the space a laboratory-cum-incubator vibe, fitting given the subversive and faintly chilling undertones of the accompanying collection. The simplicity of the space matching the starkness of the clothes – uniform-like separates cut in repetitive shapes, t-shirts, simple blazers and sporty single-stripe trousers (worn throughout the collection by each and every model).
This was a deliberate and jarring break from all Prada’s recent signatures – the eye-popping playful prints, embellishments and witty footwear. Instead we were faced with pared-back thick-strapped patent leather sandals and a collection that seemed to be entirely constructed from the same seven or eight garments reworked and recoloured in a different way on each model. Women featured heavily on this runway, seemingly to reinforce the neutrality and simplicity of the unisex garments.
The overall effect was like being transported to a ski-fi Hunger Games-esque futurist training camp, where man and woman are identical and equal, emotionless asexual androids. There was no swag and no covetable must-haves, just high-fashion prison separates in a plain palette of navy, burgundy, dark green and cream. Seventies sportswear was the most notable reference, although apparently Miuccia was actually inspired by the more recent work of Tom Ford in his 1996 A/W collection for Gucci.
These were deliberately difficult clothes. All excess and obvious finery had been removed, replaced by yards of nylon-look fabric - actually constructed from cotton, cashgora and cashmere - and iron-in pleats that would fall out after a wash. As always, it seems Miuccia is toying with the industry she deigns to work in – insolently pointing out to all the try-hard luxury churners that she can serve up simple minimalist fabric and effortless shapes and still make a splash.
In many ways – even if the actual garments were polar opposites – the underlying ethos of the collection was very similar to her A/W offering; everyone anonymous, identical and irrelevant – all simply marching on in the great world like indistinguishable beings.
It’s not fashion-making that Miuccia is really skilled at. Her biggest talent is the cult of personality that she’s built up around her and the house of Prada. As the models walked by, each clad in a matching look to the one before, she knew her audience would all sit transfixed, trying with all our might to understand it. If anyone else had showed this collection for S/S no one would give it a second thought – retro sportswear, we’d say, rushing on to the next show - but Miuccia’s got us viewers, just like her models, right there on the end of her strings. The puppet master of fashion, she knows she can put whatever she pleases on that runway and the world will all look closer, analyse longer, and think harder than at any other show. Clever, Miuccia, very clever.