From April 2 this year, Raf Simons will join the Prada brand as co-creative director, working alongside Miuccia Prada. That was the announcement that came on the last day of the Winter 2020 Milan womenswear shows, via a small press conference at Prada’s headquarters in a room filled with the kind of art both Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons like. That is, exciting, modern, big – kind of like the news itself.
There is an obvious school of thought that connects Prada and Simons – both create clothes that are meaningful, and although they helm companies of considerable size, the creative always drives the business. Simons himself stated that this partnership – which is exactly equal between the two co-creative directors – is “a questioning of creativity in the fashion system… how can out evolve?” He added, “when two creatives believe in it, when two creatives love it, it has more strength”.
It’s an appealing idea, because the work of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons is already so strong – they are, without question, two of the most important and influential designers working in the world of fashion today, and in its entire history. They also have a long personal backstory – Simons’ first womenswear designs were created during his tenure creative director of Jil Sander, a position Miuccia Prada and her husband and co-CEO of the Prada Group Patrizio Bertelli appointed him to, to enormous acclaim, in 2005. Both Prada and Simons (the people, rather than their labels) have expressed sustained mutual admiration: so much so that rumours of some form of collaboration, partnership or intermingling of their creativity has been rumoured for months.
When you talk to both Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, together or apart (these days, presumably, it’ll be much more of the former), you are struck by their similarities, their shared love of culture and art, and their interest in placing fashion in a similar context - that is, using fashion as a means of expressing emotion, feeling, and indeed intellect. Intellectual is a label affixed to both of them, although Miuccia Prada once told me that “it’s a cliché – so the moment they say that, I want to be the stupid one! Because I always go for the opposite.”
Opposites, perhaps, attract – if Simons often invests his clothes with pure love, Miuccia Prada is frequently fascinated by what she hates, using her collections to try to argue herself around. She based a whole menswear collection around golf, once – which is something she hates. And her Autumn/Winter 2020 collection – in retrospect, her closing singular statement as Prada’s standalone creative director – was dedicated to ideas of glamour, which she has often challenged and inverted but today seems interested in. Food for thought. “I need to connect to the thinking,” Raf Simons told me, last year, about what he searches for in fashion. “That’s why I’m a Miuccia Prada fan – because I believe in her total world.” That world is now partly his, too.
Here are a few facts: Simons will not be involved in the Miu Miu line; he will also continue to design his own boundary-redefining menswear label from Antwerp, although he’ll work in Milan on Prada. And his work there will encompass the entire brand universe, including both mens and womenswear. The next round of womenswear shows, for September, will mark the debut of a co-created Prada. And, to borrow the words of Miuccia Prada, “the contract is forever. There is no end date.”
“It is maybe the first time that two designers who are very successful individually have decided to work together,” said Patrizio Bertelli – and its tough to think of a comparable example in the annals of fashion, even with collaboration galore. “It is extremely exciting,” said Miuccia Prada. “I cannot wait,” said Raf Simons. Neither can we.