Twitter users who tuned in for Prada’s livestream of its fall/winter 2010 menswear show complained of small dimensions, poor audio/video distortion, and busy camerawork. Indeed, the quality was not on par with Burberry Prorsum’s yesterday, but the timing–both in terms of the clothes and presentation–was impeccable, asking and answering many questions about the direction of Prada as a brand (and the consumer as participant in that brand).
For this collection Miuccia Prada revisited one of her favorite haunts—the 1970s. From far away the silhouettes seemed familiar to the point of generic. But as the camera caught the models closer up, it revealed fresh and intelligent proportions and fabrics. Natty blazers, trousers with a hint of flare, double-breasted car coats and jackets. Instead of a rough and cynical veneer, Prada gave her man a handsome vulnerability, belting cardigans at the waist and showing sweaters shrunken to just below the navel. Between shades of beige and camel came shocks of red, yellow, merlot, and dark blue prints that read like chain link fences, tire treads, and camouflage. Slick back-belted coats in tan and black vinyl featured one of the collection’s leitmotifs, contrasting funnel necks laid open over the collar. A smattering of women’s resort looks recapitulated the themes in oversize sweaters and mod-ish coats. The overall effect was a confident but unselfconscious take on retro dressing.
More review, images, and the entire show video after the jump.
Of course the pieces are never themselves the whole story. The set of the show, care of Rem Koolhaas and his brilliant OMA/AMO team, suggested a sort of virtual metropolis, complete with thoroughfares, a park, a bar. Charts and infographics printed on the floors and walls and projected on video created not a fashion show but microcosm of real urban culture, an arena of cacophonous symbols, digital overload, and bland corporate trash—something OMA touched on with its “Prada Vomit” research in the initial stages of the retail epicenter project. The livestream’s jarring camerawork, coupled with the snaking runway path and multi-model grouping and staggered pacing, drove the point home that technological progress is as much confusing captor as democratic savior. Animations on screen remarked about modern society but also seemed to be apropos interrogations of Prada itself:
With its staggering expansion in the Asian market (and, say, China’s extreme controls over internet usage) is physical location the solution or the problem? Where, in fact, are we/Prada going? How do we adapt to changing customs of conversation and personal interaction? Have material and visual culture become evolved or convoluted, revolutionary or revolting? Who are we, and who is the Prada customer?
With this collection, Prada addressed its financial questions head on. Every single piece was not only immediately wearable but imminently sellable. And by keeping construction uncomplicated, fabrication fairly standard, and expensive graphic prints and treatments to a minimum, Prada is set to capitalize on what has become a promising and growing portion of its business—menswear.
It’s fascinating to see Prada act in concert with so-called youth culture, which has recently re-arrived at the 1990s as a source of aesthetic inspiration. Oasis and Shakespears Sister figured into the soundtrack, and I, for one, was transported to the moment when, right out of high school, I discarded my J. Crew and began thrifting and reading fashion magazines. Grunge had just wound down, and people were reaching into their parents’ closets for clothing that could evoke authenticity without hitting any costume tripwires. I’d always wondered what would happen when retro-fetishism ran out of decades to ransack and arrived at the moment when it was born. I think I witnessed that today. Miuccia Prada—who essentially invented retro as viable fashion—is at the eye of that cultural and temporal vortex, self-cannibalizing for sustenance. If the future looks unstable to everyone else, Prada showed that it can tackle uncertainty with sober optimism and enthusiastic objectivity.