Prada introduces 'handbag gloves' – and they're set to be next season's It accessory

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Emily Cronin
·4 min read
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prada raf simons miuccia - Courtesy of Prada
prada raf simons miuccia - Courtesy of Prada

It’s been a year since Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons announced their co-creative directorship of Prada at a tightly controlled press conference in Milan. Today, after their virtual autumn-winter 2021 show, they held another press conference – this one (of course) on Zoom, with Simons and Prada addressing questions from many of the same journalists from opposite ends of a white-fur-covered bench.

You get the sense that these designers, perhaps more than most, appreciate the control afforded by virtual showings. A mic-off Zoom call makes for a more civilised post-show scene than the typical backstage scrum. “I think we are both happy,” Mrs Prada said.

It shows. They marked their first anniversary as collaborators with a collection that promises plenty of freedom to dance. And ample sequinned coats and dresses in which to shimmy the night away.

It all unfolded in one of the trippiest sets of show season. Models walked in time to a thrumming electronic beat through a series of rooms carpeted or hung with faux fur and marble or painted International Klein Blue – the same set used for the menswear show last month.

The designers adapted many of the same pieces for women, too. “There was a sense of connecting men and women – the masculine in women and the feminine in men,” Simons said. “They’re classic men’s silhouettes, but by changing the materials they become more feminine.”

So models wore layered, menswear-inspired looks: button-down shirts under blazers with sleeves scrunched up almost to the armpit; pinstriped trousers; granddad cardigans. Nearly every look was layered over a bodysuit in stretch-jacquard knit. This base layer covered models from neck to ankle, so that whenever skin would have shown, graphic, Seventies-inspired florals and geometric prints flashed through instead.

Prada AW21
Prada AW21

Fittingly for a year in which outerwear has often been the only wear that matters, this was a coats show. A puff-sleeved coat in yellow corduroy nodded at Amanda Gorman, the poet and breakout star of the recent US Presidential Inauguration. An oversized Nylon bomber lined in more of that graphic jacquard looked cosy and core Prada. Best of all were the sequinned coats – sure to make keeping warm in a dressed-up context a lot easier next winter, social distancing or no.

The house went fur-free in 2019, and the abundance of faux-fur pieces couldn’t have looked more luxurious. Many models clasped the sequin-lined fur stoles and fur-lined Nylon jackets closed over their hearts. “It’s a gesture of protection but it’s also a gesture of elegance,” Simons said. It’s not the most empowered move – a woman clutching her coat closed can appear frightened, rabbity, without the free use of both hands – but somehow, it worked.

Prada AW21
Prada AW21

One of the frustrations of virtual shows is that unlike at a ‘real’ fashion show, you can’t choose where to look. The director does that for you. Prada improved on the formula by offering views of details from angles you’d never see at an in-person catwalk show. Unless you were in it: Many shots took the point of view of the next model in the lineup, starting at eye level behind a model, centred on the Prada-logo triangle on the back of her wrap or jacket. It was a great way to draw attention to the details, the main messages so many shoppers will take away from the show.

On which note: The world and its sister may be mad for Gorman’s padded Prada headbands, but Miuccia and Raf have moved on. The accessories to note for next season are the gloves with triangular change purses on the back of the hand (genuine hand-bags) and the Symbole earrings (the triangle logo from the bags, for your lobes).

Mrs Prada spoke about the fashion industry’s responsibility to take issues of sustainability, diversity and gender identity seriously. “Of course we are not able to solve the problem, but I really believe it is important in this moment… to be proactive,” she said. To that end, all materials used for the show will be upcycled and then donated to a circular economy project in Milan.

Prada AW21
Prada AW21

Last season, the designers said they were resistant to the idea of a new Roaring Twenties – that mass exuberance after our shared ordeal wouldn’t be appropriate. Did all those sequins suggest a shift? “Slowly, slowly, we are starting to come out of it, and something is mounting” Prada said. “Optimism is mounting very much.”

Simons nodded. “What’s building up is the desire for movement and action and new energy and fashion – this desire to release.... There is this feeling that we all need to go in the world again.” With handbag gloves at the ready.

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