Miuccia Prada is looking back while looking forward this S/S 16. That sounds like an obvious thing to say of any fashion designer. Don’t all build on past work while imagining what shoppers will want next? Yes. But no one does fashion or indeed thinking like Mrs Prada. Her clothes comment. And what did today’s items say? Well those prints and pictures - undoubtedly the most Instagrammed aspect of the collection, and already next season’s street style must-have - seemed to speak about the future of fashion. Those go-fast arrows, urgently pointing as if to say ‘next next next’, that zooming rocket and those bouncing bunnies read like a comment on pace. They were kitsch yet furious, sweet yet almost aggressive. Similarly those retro running tops and micro sporty shorts suggested movement and activity. Models were adorned with large backpacks, big enough to carry one’s life belongings. The Prada man and woman are on the go for S/S 16. Why the references to speed? Well fashion moves too fast. All designers complain about it, and all critics mention it. Mrs Prada seems to be thinking a lot about the way the system is changing and how it can be made more sustainable, more relevant, more modern - she’s already made her view on the conservative split of the sexes (one fashion week for men, one for women) clear by showing boys and girls together and presenting us with a ‘gender’ manifesto last season, but maybe this was her turning her ever-intelligent, critical eye to the manic way we view, report and consume fashion. It would be an apt time for her to think about these themes, after all Prada has had a tricky time of late - sales have fallen and share prices have dipped.
Maybe that’s why this collection felt a little despondent, a little moody and irreverent thanks to the way jackets hung off models’ backs, as if they just couldn’t be bothered to pull them on properly, or in the way layers were worn together haphazardly, with hems bunching out of the back of jackets and cuffs rolled messily over sleeves. This collection was styled as if the garments has been worn and loved for years. In fact, many of the pieces almost looked like things you could have had in your wardrobe for years - see the retro zip up track tops and striped jersey t-shirts. What does it mean when designers try to make new clothes look old? Is it to emphasise a need, to suggest that this isn’t just one more collection, the next in a run of many, but a selection of items that are relevant and useful. ‘Look how seamlessly these can just slot into your closet,’ seemed to be the message of all that slouching and scrunching. If Mrs Prada was thinking about people’s existing clothing, and the way we all love and cherish key pieces, then that explains the nods to her own archive - last season’s top stitching was back, and those pleated, printed skirts, worn by the female models, could have dropped straight out of Sincere Chic from Spring/Summer 2000. There’s an intriguing trend at the moment for nostalgia for one’s own past. At Pitti, Thomas Tait remade pieces from his archive, using the superior factories and materials now at his disposable to make his designs in the way he always wanted. Why should things exists for one season and then die? Mrs Prada seemed to ponder that also, by considering why things that have sold well in the past, and no doubt exist worn-in and slightly battered in many Prada-fans’ wardrobes, can’t be as appropriate for now new again. Why does the pace require constant change, you left pondering.
There was also something about innocence and youth here. This was Prada for the next generation, perhaps those who don’t remember any of the hits from the first time round. Indeed, those bunnies and rockets felt strangely naive and a little childlike despite their suggestions of speed. The new generation doesn’t care for gender divisions, they’re fluid, they take from the past and recreate it for their present. They mix, clash and borrow. All things Mrs Prada did today, for S/S 16. This was Prada’s future, rooted in its past.