miuccia prada addresses the importance of menswear in milan
On the second day of shows in Milan, Miuccia Prada devoted her platform to comment on the very different levels of creative freedom between menswear and womenswear, and the relationship between the male and female wardrobe.
It's no wonder fashion people have a rep for being a little peculiar. We fill up the Prada building in Milan with about 900 of us and virtually build an entire nightclub setting within its massive runway space, only to sit and watch what's essentially—to the average eye—fifty pretty normal monotone looks. After which we all rush back to our hotels to write hundreds of words about the meaning of it all. For her autumn/winter 2015 men's collection, Miuccia Prada had made sure even more people would do so, inviting the top womenswear reviewers to Milan for the night to attend the show, which explored the relationship between men and women and their respective wardrobes. It was a kind of epic gesture to prove her point: how much menswear feeds into womenswear, and how much her men's collections inspire her women's collections, which usually serve as the second acts in her seasonal two-part stories.
"I don't call it Pre-Fall," Mrs Prada said backstage of the nineteen women's looks that appeared in the show. "I call it another point of view of the next season." In recent seasons, Pre-Fall - which we'll call it anyway - has made up an important part of the designer's men's shows because menswear, as Prada so candidly admitted, is now essentially the only chance for designers of huge brands like her own to freely focus on the idea that interests them most creatively. "When you do the women's, you're obliged to have more and more and more, and you are never able to do what sometimes you really care most about." Because menswear makes up such a small part of the turnovers for these houses, it's become a playground for free creative roam to a larger extent than their women's lines could ever be, simply because womenswear carries the burden of being the commercial breadwinner. And in that sense, the men's shows are becoming more important than ever before.
"The thinking is always abstract," Prada reminded members of the press backstage, stacked up around her like vultures to a prey as has become the tradition when Prada hands out her twice-seasonal fashion wisdom fodder post-show. "You have many things and you edit at the end, and we only liked black and blue and grey," she said, teasing her parishioners so desperate for answers to the stream of muted, rigidly stripped-down looks that walked through the small rooms of the set, decked out as an industrial nightclub that had a certain Berlin-ish character to it, to equally industrial electro music. "I wanted to make it elegant and modern. What does it mean, I don't know? Very strict," Prada offered. What it was, was uniform: a completely clear-cut, unembellished representation of the base of our wardrobes, for men, the plain top, the plain trouser, the plain suit; for women, the everyday dress, the little jacket, the coat that almost doubles as a dress.
It made for Prada's at once perhaps most commercial collection ever and at the same time her most provocative. Because if it weren't for the fact that this was Prada and we know that the thought she puts into it will affect such a significant part of the fashion landscape, we would hardly have found those fifty - indeed - very normal looks so interesting. What Prada conveyed through her study of menswear's influence on womenswear was the functionality aspect of fashion, which is more present for men (practical creatures) than it is for women (impractical creatures). It's obviously a harsh and in no way truthful representation of the sexes, but summarised like that it makes sense in terms of what Prada suggested: that clothes, until further developed, are simply components in a necessary daily uniform. She referred to the single plaid dress, which appeared mid-show amongst the sea of monotone looks, as a 'mistake', no doubt shrewdly planned to highlight the uniformity of its fellow looks. "I was fixated. No one wanted to put it in the show. I said, 'I like some mistakes'," Prada noted.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Ash Kingston