A Style was the title Miuccia Prada gave to her Spring/Summer 2020 fashion show. Actually, nix that – ‘fashion’ was the last thing on her mind. Or maybe it was foremost, but was certainly the last thing she wanted to create or express. “Reduce, reduce, reduce,” was the mantra she invoked – resulting in clothes that were resolutely pared back, deceptively simple, and markedly removed from the fuss, bother and extraneous design gewgaws that have characterised much of contemporary fashion. Presumably, when Mrs Prada says she’s anti-fashion she means anti-that kind of fashion: fashion where intellectual integrity is subjugated to trickery and gimmicks.
“We want to talk more about style than fashion,” Miuccia Prada said. “About a way of wearing things. Stripping everything back.” This was a notion she had explored in her resort collection in New York, shown back in May, where simplicity was given the frisson of rebellion, proposed again as a protest to our media-saturated, hyper-plugged-in and resolutely over-complicated times. It is an idea obsessing contemporary society, the notion of detoxing from connectivity and interactivity and escaping into the easy things. It’s not some Rousseau-esque retreat to a rose-tinted, bucolic idyll – certainly that wasn’t the message Prada expressed either back in May, or re-emphasised now in Milan. But it was about a notion of the beauty in the ordinary, in the direct and pure: a gauze skirt, a ribbed sweater, a pair of brogues in that particularly Prada shade of brown. Those comprised the first outfit on Freja Beha Erichsen – a casting which for Miuccia Prada assumed even more import than usual. A focus on style pulled focus, inevitably, onto the women wearing the clothes – here each presented as an individual persona, shifting make-up and hair styles on each, expressive of distinct characters which, in turn, could serve to reinvent the clothes. It was, Miuccia Prada emphasised, about the power of style, the power of permanence.
And therefore, in a sense, the power of Prada. Because although Prada is often characterised as the quintessence of ‘fashion’ – swinging on its axes from season to season, ever altering and reacting against itself – it also has a distinct, immediately identifiable style. The aforementioned ribbed sweater and A-line skirt bore echoes of Prada’s seminal late-90s collections – the 90s being a decade Miuccia Prada herself cited, alongside the 70s and 20s, as epochs where clothes segued with culture to become expressions of an overall style. Think of the glistening, linear cocktail dresses of the 1920s sketching, on the body, the shape of the newly invented skyscraper – some of those dresses appeared in this show, albeit in humble fabrics. Yet the style of the 90s was, of course, determined to a large extent by the styles of Miuccia Prada – her sludgy, deliberately ‘off’ colours and, even then, 70s references made new again.
There’s also something interesting when an idea catches Miuccia Prada’s attention so much that she continues to explore it for more than a single season – when it feels like a shift in thinking, a new way of approaching creating clothes. Perhaps, a new style. “You have to get used to seeing less,” she said. And, to echo another 90s mantra, less here really did feel like more. And doubtless, we’ll be seeing more of it.