nathan westling makes his menswear debut at prada’s spring/summer 20 show in shanghai

Taking place in a refurbished silo in the Shanghai docks, Miuccia’s latest menswear collection was an ode to the futuristic films of the 80s -- with a brilliantly Prada twist.

by Liam Hess
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Jun 7 2019, 4:42pm

“It takes hours of preparation to get that wasted look,” sung 80s electro musician Fad Gadget over the booming sound system, as Prada’s army of men who fell to earth walked down the runway for their spring/summer collection. In the first overseas menswear show Prada has ever staged, Miuccia took her merry gang of Prada-philes east -- more specifically, to the docks of Shanghai -- but a riff on the traditional codes of Chinese dressing this was not.

Instead, the collection was a celebration of 80s sci-fi: within the halls of the colossal grain silo on Shanghai’s Minsheng Wharf, the columns and lintels were covered in a skeletal framework of neon strip lighting that gave the space an eerie, seedy glow. Soon, the sound of clanking and cluttering industrial gears began, before segueing into a veritable space odyssey, with nods throughout the show to everything from Blade Runner and Tron to a futuristic soundtrack of Italo disco and krautrock.

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Even if Prada’s signature knack for retro-inspired prints saw shirts and jackets emblazoned with cassette tapes and vintage camcorders, as an opener to the menswear collections this month, the emphasis was on cutting-edge functionality: from floaty tunics, tank tops and tabards in beige and black, to the universal footwear of choice of either lace-up combat boots or chunky sneakers with thick woollen socks.

It wasn’t a particularly sunny vision, either. Models stomped as off-the-grid nomadic wanderers, with the traditional Prada nylon backpacks in blown up proportions and parkas coming with oversized pockets, to make sure you can stow everything you need to survive. The most common accessory was a stylised necklace that appeared to be made from nylon rope, with the signature Prada triangular plaque attached to the end, like a very chic ID tag. As with Miuccia’s autumn/winter 18 men’s collection, all of this added up to something more sinister: an army of faceless cyborgs, or a legion of workers toiling away in a factory basement in an H.G. Wells dystopia.

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It’s well known that the menswear collections serve as an introduction for whatever Ms. Prada has up her sleeve for the blockbuster womenswear show the following month, and in this case it seems she’s moved away from the scary monsters and super creeps of last season, with its goth-inflected Victoriana, and is instead taking things firmly into the future. The casting too had a youthful slant: notably with the menswear runway debut of Nathan Westling, who recently covered i-D’s The Voice of a Generation Issue shot by Collier Schorr -- keep your eyes out for him as the men’s season progresses.

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There were also, as always, plenty in the way of desirable accessories: in particular the various iterations of the classic Prada bowling bag for men, which also had a strong presence at the brand’s cruise show in New York last month. Even if Miuccia may have kickstarted the trend by presenting a revamped collection of the brand’s classic Pocono nylon accessories back at the beginning of last year, the 90s it bag revival is well underway. Most interestingly, perhaps, it seems to be catching the eyes of men too: note the Dior saddle bags and Fendi baguettes that were sent down the runway during the last men’s season and are quickly becoming hypebeast must-haves.

In many ways, the show felt like an entirely appropriate way of responding to showing in China: rather than the tried-and-tested (and often inappropriate) means of bridging between east and west -- namely, taking the codes of traditional Chinese dress and mashing them up with the brand’s staples -- Miuccia instead took the spirit of Shanghai as a teeming, future-facing metropolis and filtered it through her own distinctive worldview. The result was something thrillingly dark and dangerous: her very own model army of ghosts in the machine.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.