prada breaks all the rules

Classics with a twist, as they say. Miuccia Prada’s new obsession is suits, but she didn’t totally cheat on her old love – dresses – either.

25 September 2015, 9:25am

Absent at her show on Thursday due to the death of an aunt, Miuccia Prada had to forego her bi-seasonal backstage session where we all descend on her like notebook-holding predators with iPhones. Instead the honour fell upon her design director Fabio Zambernardi, who looked a bit overwhelmed with the situation. "Now you know what it feels like," a legendary fashion critic quipped before she left. "She likes obsessions," Zambernardi said of his boss. "That was the new thing: obsessing. Obsessing with suits. Mrs Prada felt that she wanted to go back to suits, because she feels that it's something she doesn't do so much. So she got obsessed with it." It was evident in the collection, a parade of skirt suits layered with sheer dresses as a comment on the wardrobe of another time. "There were lots of little signs of the past, like the veil, embroidery—but everything was supposed to be modern. The sheer was almost like the memory of dresses. There were only the tops and the bottoms. That's why they were layered over other things; just an idea of it," Zambernardi explained. "Like the suits when they become transparent, they're not real, they're just a fantasy."

It was Prada's most straightforward collection in seasons. In one way, a lesson in old and new, in another, an exercise in the meaningfulness you can inject into an outfit through styling. And make no mistake of it, when it comes to Mrs Prada it's always about meaning. Was the collection pro-nostalgia, or anti-modernity, or something in between? No, this one felt more like one of Mrs Prada's raised fingers at her industry, a manifestation of the times in which we live and a reminder of an age that's disappearing. She touched upon a similar theme in her spring/summer 15 collection - that brocade bonanza - where intricate fabrics were employed to highlight the importance of preserving traditional craftsmanship in an ever-industrialising fashion industry. For Mrs Prada, it seems, our time is a time for reflection on how far we've now moved away from the ways of the original - so to speak - world of fashion and dress, as in the mid-century when the industry was definitively born and the art of dressing was a rather more formal and considered act than it is today. In other words, those classic "memories of dresses" over modern women's tailoring could be seen as a kind of festive packaging of a time when women really dressed up.

The fabrics were masculine, Zambernardi said. "Super traditional and used in classical way but then mixed up in something totally fun and contemporary. That was the most important thing, to have that and to be able to play with it. If you have something really classic you can play with really incredible combinations and always try to be very chic and sophisticated. You have to have that base of the classic, the traditional tailoring, and especially the fabrics. Then the rest can be crazier because of that." In that sense, you could say the collection was Mrs Prada's comment on contemporary dress codes: those odd modern rules of what's deemed acceptable to wear to work, to drinks, to dinner and beyond, which uphold much-needed formality, but one the other hands can be somewhat detrimental to creativity. It was Mrs Prada's way of saying, "Don't be boring," as she's so often said it between the lines of her collections. Rules, after all, were meant to be broken.

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Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans