HOLY GRAILS, there are certainly a couple of those in fashion. And it usually starts with Prada in Milan and ends with Comme des Garcons in Paris. The grail in question: what does “it” all mean? What are they trying to say? What are they trying to tell us? What? Why?
There are few shows and brands that prompt this line of questioning quite so much as these two (and while we’re in Milan, we’ll focus on the former). People look to them – Prada – with more questions potentially than the collection can answer – other than that they’d like to buy it all, thank you very much.
Mrs. Prada likes, we’re told, to make us think, make a comment. And she does – there is something undeniably incredible about the way she manages to make things work that you just think can’t and won’t, but they do. She piles it high, styles it big or dishevelled, whatever she does she is noted as having the magic touch; she’s a tour du force.
“I think of the collection’s almost like Brutalist architecture,” a friend – and fashion friend – tells me. “I’m sometimes not sure why I like the construction, but I always eventually do.”
She sows a seed.
And so the expectation upon going to a show is that you’ll either be enlightened straight away afterwards akin to a religious experience (and no doubt some do), that fashion, the world will all make sense; or that it will come to you in a few days, or maybe a week, or maybe longer. Never does fashion analysis or academics come more into its own than with a Prada (or Comme) collection. You’ll hear people discuss it at long length, dissecting the politic.
“I always look to Prada to challenge my idea of what the ‘trends’ are,” continued said friend. How would she like Prada’s pirates this season? A high-seas exploration of sailor hats and corsets, brocade and bejewelled treasures, it was the most luxe of sea shanty style which ran from Victoriana to Forties silhouettes and styling. Tights – a Prada hallmark – were back in a big way, this time Harlequin printed and worn with studded and jewelled wedge booties. It was all about bib-front collars and serious sea-worthy coats, dirndl skirts, and, of course, that little sailor hat perched atop the head.
It was one of those winning Prada collections (for she is also known to go in a cycle of: one season, her signature; another, more conceptual or mad): like the lace one, the turban one, the chandelier shoe one; the fantasy print pyjamas one; the gold crush suit one (and where the shoes were impossible to walk in and models Katie Fogarty and Yulia Kharlapanova fell over).
“There’s definitely a Prada woman,” observes my friend. Next question: who is she? Now that's a biggie. Are you a Prada person? Ditto. And what does that mean? Only you can answer that. It’s one of those fashion-life-crises. But don’t worry if you don’t “get it” anything more than being your favourite collection – because that’s OK too. Fashion works at many levels. People just like to dig a little deeper when it comes to Prada.