Prada. "The Show That Never Happened" - SS 2021
And some things that shouldn't be happening.
“I think that our job as fashion designers is to create clothes for people, that is the honesty of it. That is really the value of our job—to create beautiful, intelligent clothes. This season, we focused on that idea: It is about clothes, about giving value to pieces. The clothes are simple, but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication. This is a moment that requires some seriousness, a moment to think and to reflect on things. What do we do, what is fashion for, what are we here for? What can fashion contribute to a community?” ~ Miuccia Prada, about her show.
Let's deconstruct that.
"To create beautiful, intelligent clothes." Tick.
Prada is a master at creating beautifully made clothes, wearable clothes, desirable clothes. Examples:
"The concept of simplicity as an antidote to useless complication." Tick.
"What do we do, what is fashion for, what are we here for?"
A complicated question. At base level, to create beautiful clothes, to provide inspiration, to inspire daydreams. (And to be profitable - because otherwise, no designer and no show). Tick.
Another answer - to provide art. To challenge our thoughts, provide visual enjoyment, offer alternative perspectives or create controversial images for those who may or may never wear the actual clothes. Tick.
"What can fashion contribute to a community?"
This is where you slip up, Prada (and many of the other major fashion houses).
Fashion can contribute a LOT to a community. It provides images, inspiration, ideas. It allows people to dream. It can sell - not just clothes, but norms - ideas of what can be done and what can be achieved. Even while selling exclusivity, it can be inclusive in its reach, using the visual to normalise those who have been excluded, or challenging us to think about our prejudices. It can give us a reason to smile in the morning when we wake up and put on that bright pop of colour or that shimmering, expensive piece of material which makes us feel like - for just a moment - we are the queen of our little universes. It can inject millions into economies and provide jobs for people at all levels of the fashion chain. Fashion can contribute a lot to a community.
And, in light of ALL the controversies worldwide recently, here's what else fashion can do. Think not just about the clothes, or the artistic sets - but look again at the models. Only recently, voices have been raised about the women, and token efforts have been made to protect the vulnerable (some companies or countries now consider age and BMI as important considerations). But with the onset of all the virtual shows, livestreamed or available on youtube, we don't see the models in the distance on a catwalk, or at their best angle in the professional photographs helpfully uploaded - we get a better look at who the agencies and armies of people in the industry are using to model their wares. And it's not good.
Look at the men and women in this presentation. We are being given colour diversity. But that's it. We are being forced to look at emaciated young men whose cheekbones seem to shriek for a beef or vegan burger. We are being given models who - while they may be of age - appear to have been chosen for their ability to look like unhappy, sleep-deprived, pimply teens. Adolescent-like coathangers with soulless eyes who look like the clothes don't excite them at all.
And that is a shame. Because the clothes SHOULD be exciting us. That is your primary job, Prada. To sell the clothes. And I want to be sold powerful, or exciting, or daring, or exuberant, or sexy, or rebellious, or elegant, or interesting images. There's so many creative and intelligent ways these clothes could be modelled. I don't want to be shown clothes on someone who looks like they've sold their soul to appear on the catwalks.
And even if you only see the models as bi-pedal clothes racks, others don't. Ambitious youngsters see these images as what they have to aspire to if they want to model. The models themselves are, in some cases, potentially engaging in unhealthy or excessive lifestyles to keep conforming to the most unlikely of stereotypes. The emaciated faces are creating nightmares for social media watchers as thousands of people use them as a starting point for their own grotesque creations.
Keep giving us beautiful fashion, Prada. But give us beautiful people too. In the eyes and in the posture and in the energy of the people modelling your clothes.
The best image of all in the presentation? Prada herself, at the end, emerging from the concrete doorway. And giving a little smile.
Images in this blog taken from the Prada Video as available on Youtube, or from Vogue https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2021-menswear/prada