Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons on Dissing Icons, Dressing for Yourself and Architecture

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Luisa Zargani
·6 min read
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MILAN — Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons don’t have many disagreements.

With this reassuring statement, the designers responded to questions posed by a group of international students in a video conversation posted on Sunday after the Prada men’s show.

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Right from Day One, explained Prada, who welcomed Simons as codesigner of the luxury brand last year, the mutual understanding was that “if we really hate something, we don’t do it, it’s very clear.”

“It’s a constantly ongoing conversation about ideas, completely natural,” chimed in Simons. If the ideas don’t match, the designers just move on, since “there are so many things that do match.”

That said, Prada has never been afraid to change her mind. Case in point: She revealed that she had “hated pinstripes all my life but now I am in love, [let’s have] more pinstripes,” she said with a chuckle. And Prada reiterated that she relishes the exchange of ideas with Simons, whom she has long called a friend.

“We made the decision to collaborate, no one obliged us,” she said. “So far, it’s good, we like [this collaboration].”

Sitting on cubes that respected social distancing, in the same space that housed the fashion show, the designers responded to questions about the location and the set, with its curved walls and floors in different colors and materials, from purple to azure, and which were clearly very significant to both of them. In fact, even during the conversation, special effects changed the palettes and fabrics around the designers.

“We are encountering situations that we could never have possibly imagined,” said Simons about the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the loss of freedom to move about. “We concluded that it was not important to create a narrative architectural context, but rather more a feeling of context.”

“As designers, we are interested in the life of people. Clothes are one small part, but the environment is even more important,” said Prada. “It’s natural that anything that defines the life of people is interesting for fashion. In this case, architecture helps to describe and tell the feelings we have. It’s a strange abstract place, materials lead to tactility and sensuality, and help define what you want to say.”

Prada said architecture was especially relevant this season for her. “I live kind of secluded, and this [set] corresponds to this moment, inside the bubble, not inside nor out into nature, it’s an abstract place full of feelings.”

Asked about the support of technology today, Simons said he and Prada were “mainly dealing with other aspects, dealing with emotions and what is happening in the world. We were looking at the senses, the contrasts, the tactility — the opposite of technology.”

Prada looked at technology as a way to connect to people. “We are here with you and at least for me, it’s a huge change. We are searching for humanity, and depend from technology,” she admitted, but she underscored how it is key to “make technology at our service, at the service of ideas and feelings, as an instrument to transmit feelings and ideas in the best possible way.”

She also highlighted the show space, which she described as the “opposite of technology. It’s an abstract space, you don’t know if you are inside or outside, but it’s full of feelings and humanity, color and tactile.”

The long john was the following topic of conversation, but both designers underscored this was not meant as a uniform, which was a key element for the designers last season.

“You don’t find clothes that are so flexible in fashion,” offered Prada, who was wearing a stunning pearl necklace with a precious stone over a camel-colored blouse, capri pants and stilettoed pumps.

“With one piece you can express so many things and are open to many possibilities, I am very satisfied,” she said, smiling. “I did not change my attitude toward the way I dress because I think it’s more important than the consolation of comfort. For me, the game of clothes is a fantastic game, I use it in my life, when I am in a good mood. You can change the perception of yourself, or represent something you are not just to confuse people,” she added candidly.

After discussing inclusivity with a student from Ghana, who underscored the value of local fabrics and artisanal craft and partnering with global brands, to which Prada responded enthusiastically, the designers explored the topic of control — and how not always being in control can yield to creative moments.

“When we were filming the runway, one thing happened that was not planned at all,” said Simons of a model who decided to start dancing. “These dancing moments were spontaneous and not at all planned. I could feel the moment of these boys being in this space and feeling happy and excited, a physical feeling disconnected from anything else, after being so constricted.”

Who do you design for was the hardest question for Simons. He admitted that, for more than a decade when designing his namesake brand, he had “someone in mind,” but then things changed and he found it “more and more difficult to define the audience, which became too broad,” and he now designs “for anyone who is interested and feels connected. And I am fascinated to see how people apply the clothes and I am inspired by it.”

Prada said it had always been “the opposite” for her. “I’ve always seen clothes as objects. I designed what I liked, what was right for me, I never thought who is my clientele, just about what made sense for me. People then buy the clothes and do whatever they want with them. When they ask me if I’m upset when my clothes don’t look good [on someone], believe it or not, I never judge people by the way they dress. I only notice when something is particularly inspiring. Also, I hate the idea of an icon, I have never had one. I think that if I am more open, in contact with reality and intelligent they will buy [the clothes] because they make sense to people.

“You should always follow yourself, it’s crucial and fundamental,” continued Prada. “The clothes are the expression of your ideas. It’s not so easy because you need to know yourself first, but if you choose your job and your ideas, then fashion follows and it’s easy. The person is the only very important thing. Clothes are at the service of your life.”

Viewed as a sample of current and future creatives, participants were selected from among the students at academic institutions including Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design; New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology; Beijing’s Tsinghua University, School of Architecture; Tokyo-based Bunka Fashion College; the International Design School for Advanced Studies at Seoul’s Hongik University; the Faculty of Philosophy at Milanese Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, and London’s Central Saint Martins.

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