Prada seeks meaning in the age of uncertainty for Spring/Summer 2021

With Raf Simons as co-creative director, the Italian house seeks meaning in the age of uncertainty

Prada’s latest collection is almost 15 years in the making. Miuccia Prada, head of the Italian fashion house has enlisted powerhouse designer Raf Simons as a co-creative director for Prada’s spring/summer 2021 collection—some fifteen years after anointing the Belgian designer as creative director of Jil Sander in 2005. But why Prada? And why now? Collaboration has always been part and parcel for the luxury fashion world, but Raf and Miuccia share a special kindred spirit as iconoclastic designers.

Let’s bracket that insider baseball stuff and bring attention back to the runway. Prada’s spring/summer 2021 collection is, in many respects, a perfectly cohesive visual marriage of Mrs. Prada’s minimalist sartorial sensibilities and Simons’ more audacious, graphic, and culturally reflexive affectations. According to the brand, the conversation is less about reinvention than it is redefinition—a dialog between the two designers. The garments—defined by lustrous blacks, whites, and gold palettes—are a kinetic dialog, as if Mrs. Prada is replying, with form-fitting, minimalist silhouettes, to Raf’s prototypically type-driven, asymmetrical and deconstructed approach. 

The garments are tactile in nature—uniforms with coats that are, in the brand’s language, “Drawn around the body, held by the hand…an innately human gesture.” And certainly humanity is on display throughout the collection—anxieties around this present moment are fettered throughout the collection, whether they’re explicit descriptions from the designers or more subtle odes to technology and togetherness (“This season, in a period where the mediation between technology and humanity has become vital—bringing us together, even as we are apart—inspiration is drawn from this inherently contemporary and inevitable fusion.”) The collection also features Simons’ longtime collaborator, and fellow Belgian artist, Peter de Potter, whose work is emblazoned across the Prada uniforms. Defacing a uniform is doubtless an artistic anxiety that reflects the parlous state of the world. 

To situate Prada in 2020, one wonders: is this a moment or a movement? Is this Prada’s new normal?