Taking care. That was the title Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons gave to their Autumn/Winter 2023 women’s collection – and it felt apt. Because they are designers who care, deeply, about both what they create and the impact their creations have on the world; about fashion’s role as a reflection of a wider cultural conversation, and designers’ jobs to contribute. “For me, the real meaning of what we do is to bring importance to the everyday,” Miuccia Prada said. “Everyday life deserves beautiful things. Because every day of life counts.” It’s impossible not to connect her words to the state of the world today: a year ago, the debut of Prada’s Autumn/Winter 2022 collection coincided with the beginnings of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
So, Prada and Simons chose this moment to celebrate those who take care in the world – their dresses inspired by uniforms were not a fetishisation of everyday clothing, but rather a celebration of the meaning behind the cloth. The nurse’s uniform, for instance, is a visual shorthand for healing and wellbeing, an aesthetic reassurance; the neckties and epauletted shirts of security personnel semaphore safety. But Prada heightened them all, giving them the visual significance of grand ballgowns; the guards’ ties were even festooned with flowers, as if wreathing their wearers with laurels. “Those garments are important, the wearers are important, the action is important,” said Raf Simons before the show. “People that care are the most important.”
Hence the sense of ceremony that transmogrified both the clothes and the show space itself at the grand Deposito of the Fondazione Prada. If you’d watched their menswear show, the jig was up: as the music began to swell, the low-hunkered ceiling of the industrial space began, almost imperceptibly, to rise around a sequence of orange columns which then seemingly burst into flower, topped with creamy heads of massed white lilies, an architectural reflection of those blooming shirts, while others sprouted from shoes or bubbled out of the surface of handbags. Giving flowers, after all, is a universal symbol of affection, a demonstration of love. So too is a wedding – so the collection opened with wedding dresses chopped down to their skirts and proposed for very lovely daywear. Simons relayed that the idea there was to take a piece embedded with meaning and nuance yet just worn once, and to make it part of everyone’s everyday: “Why should this celebration of love be for only a single day?”
Taking care doesn’t only imply love, but also protection. Some dresses and skirts were puffed with down padding, other crafted from leathers and suedes inspired by the protective aprons of industrial workers – they formed armour for the strife of today. You may also argue, of course, that the armour is ideological as well as literal, philosophical protection, the notion of being correctly attired, and also clothes with the care and attention of others. The craft in these clothes – embroideries, appliqués, laces – were expressive of the care embedded in the best fashion. “This collection is about finding beauty everywhere,” says Miuccia Prada. Can there be a nobler aim?