Which way to look? Eyes straight forward towards the metal mesh — and there were the Prada models walking purposefully by in a plain black dress with just an illuminated belt, black bra and big pants worn over a prim checked shirt. Or a raincoat pulled hard across the body, tautly belted on one side, and on each wrist a fluff of boudoir pink marabou.
"Because it was the most silly piece to put with reality," explained Miuccia Prada backstage about the feathers.
He had shown above the models' heads clips of a film, Past Forward, which told a story of modern women's lives — a brisk walk to work along a city street, a click of high heels on the vast expanse of an airport, a dizzying ride down the escalator, a figure running in fear, a travel bag (Prada, of course) abandoned on the floor. No words. A silent Prada movie.ё
Backstage, in a melee of film figures — Jack Huston, Sinqua Walls and Kuoth Wiel — and old friends like Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Miuccia spoke about a collection that did not seem so complicated to understand in its brisk, work and play clothes.
"I wanted to change from the old excuses of women’s lives that had interested me for many seasons. I want to take care of now and do something much more simple, trying to find a new way of elegance," the designer said.
"Elegance sounds an old fashioned word, but it is also the sense of something meaningful and deeply calculated," she continued. "We live in this moment of a fashion that is intimate, real, sensitive, and I tried to make that in a way that is contemporary. I was searching for this kind of simplicity and elegance for today".
Put that another way: this summer 2017 show was quintessentially Prada. These were clothes for a purposeful, modern, urban woman with her wrap cardigan taut on the bust and a skirt slit high as she marched. Or gingham shirt over another kick out, knee length skirt.
The collection, with its sleek mixes of patterns, was always about workwear with a twist of imagination in its checks, its flat clutch bags and sensible sandals, but with a bra worn seductively on top of the clothes or that marabou fluffing up the basics.
Prada has defined — and perhaps shaped — women's lives, offering a clean-cut wardrobe and leaving the wearer to decide whether brief, flowered shorts are appropriate peeping from under a lean plaid jacket.
After the show, David O. Russell showed the full version of his movie at the Fondazione Prada, the cluster of modern art exhibition spaces Miuccia and her husband Patrizio Bertelli have created on the outskirts of Milan. The film expanded the story we had seen on the runway in snippets. It will premiere in Los Angeles in November.
"He had the courage to collaborate on the show and for him it was such a new experience," said Miuccia, referring to the film director.
It may be that Prada, at a time of falling sales worldwide, was trying to offer clothes that were consciously easy on the eye and simple to wear. But such is Miuccia's strength and originality, that the show, as ever, seemed so much more than the sum of its wearable parts.