Simplicity as rebellion. That was the big idea behind Prada’s Resort 2020 show, held in New York yesterday evening. Or, as it goes, not such a big idea. “Everything is too much, too complicated, too sophisticated,” said Miuccia Prada, after showing a collection she declared was about “going back to simplicity and humanity, in this moment that is very complex”. Mrs Prada was thinking small. The venue – Prada’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed HQ in a former piano factory – is, essentially, Prada’s home away from home. “I like showing in my places. I feel secure – I can do whatever I want,” said Mrs Prada with a smile, as waiters swerved out serving suburban-style canapés (white asparagus, plates of ham, nothing too fancy). Mrs Prada herself was wearing brown silk duchesse lounging pyjamas. She evidently felt at home.
And that home, this season, was truly homely, reconfigured as a series of vaguely 70s shag carpet-smothered alcoves, punctuated with bubblegum-pink formica coffee tables and hazed in a Barbara Cartland rose-tint light via ranks of quietly buzzing neon bulbs. The clothes that marched through those environs were understated, intimate, and quietly buzzy as well. They weren’t very pink, though. The overwhelming colour was beige – camel, tan, caramel, cognac, every shade really – alongside pale blues and blacks. Patterns were restricted to checks and pinstripes, micro-florals evocative of wallpapers and domestic textiles; fabrics were layered over themselves, cotton on cotton on cotton, faille on faille on faille; jacket, shirt, skirt. There were striped scarves, clattering with pailettes but still cartoonishly simple, naive. And the silhouettes of those were resolutely simple. For her, classicism and simplicity were a protest against the overwhelming aspects of modern culture. Including, but not limited to, fashion. “I am very sensitive to what is happening politically, in the world,” said Mrs Prada. “It affects me.” It also affects her fashion.
“Sometimes, as a designer, you have to please, to impress,” said she. “And sometimes you want to do what’s right. Real, modest, human.” Certainly, this Prada collection was a quiet breathing space in an increasingly crammed and as-yet unofficial month-long resort schedule – Chanel staged their show barely six hours after the Prada party kicked off, albeit halfway across the world; Dior showed on Monday in Marrakesh, next week is Louis Vuitton. Rather than making a grand, overarching statement, however, this collection pulled focus back onto clothing – which is what resort collections were always all about, after all. They were understated, egalitarian and direct – a great coat, an A-line skirt, a duster coat in cotton drill. But the context was what made them feel rebellious, provocative – the context of the show, with a No-Wave soundtrack including tracks from Gray, the industrial band of artists Michael Holman and Jean-Michel Basquiat. And the context of New York City, where these clothes evoked an early-1980s downtown art scene where the emphasis was placed on what was in your head, rather than what’s on your back. That died out as the 80s exploded into their now-signature excess, mirrored in our own era of more-is-more, but now propagated further and faster via Instagram rather than the society pages of W magazine. Using that, in the overloaded world of today, as a fashion show focus felt like a true act of aesthetic rebellion.
“It’s my little protest,” said Mrs Prada, of her extraordinarily ordinary clothes.