A dig at normcore? Or embracing the trend? Conservative might just be the new avant-garde in a Prada collection inspired by the depression's of the 30s and 80s.
Conservative is the new avant-garde. It was a statement hammered through by Miuccia Prada in Milan on Sunday evening as the designer asked herself what ‘new’ means in a fashion landscape of extremes. “I sometimes see myself when I go in my wardrobe and everything looks strong, and you pick up something that’s so un-fashion it’s the only new thing,” she said backstage. A large swimming pool with a square bridge runway made for a resolutely banal summer backdrop to a collection of skinny unassuming tailoring with embroidered topstitching that almost gave garments a faux denim effect. If the colour palette – blue, brown, beige – looked 70s that wasn’t entirely wrong (“a little bit,” Mrs Prada confessed) but the pristine, neatly unworn quality of the garments and the way they were presented had an air of the late 90s and early 00s about it, too, when clothes were meant to look ‘nice’ and never too adventurous.
Indeed there was a freshly ironed, almost nerdy mood about the deliberately unintentional preppiness of the collection, like a stereotypical IT person or perhaps just a posh boy, who got it slightly wrong. “It’s what’s good for the moment,” Mrs Prada said, making you wonder if her collection was a calculated dig at normcore or a rare embracing on the designer’s part of a trend she didn’t invent herself. It was hardly the latter, but Prada’s ongoing exploration of societies affected by hardship and recession loomed in the wings, Was this display of conservativeness really just the natural next step from last season’s welcome-to-the-Great-Depression vibe of a partied-out world preparing for hard times to come? Certainly, the mainstream men’s fashions of the poverty-stricken 30s and 80s – which followed the fun times of the 20s and 70s – adopted a decidedly conservative approach not dissimilar to this one.
Conservative, of course, would be the fashion way of seeing it. The long crotches on trousers and those subversively misunderstood loafers were quite extreme in their own way, not to mention the panelled prairie prom shirt that came out towards the end. “What is classic is a very serious question,” Mrs Prada said as she explained how her swimming pool set was all one big piss-take on a summer classic. “It’s a joke,” she smiled. But while fashion’s definition of classic would easily shock a suburb dweller, the mainstream’s understanding of the term is so closely related to the idea of the conservative that Prada hit the nail on the head. If boring was the new interesting in the designer’s men’s world, it didn’t go for the women’s looks showed as part of the collection. “The women’s show is never enough so at the end I realise I can do in the men’s show what I personally like most,” Mrs Prada said.