Milan designers skirted the line between the virtual and the physical Thursday, taking lessons learned in lockdown to create new collections that are relevant in a reshaped world.
The most anticipated event of the week was Prada’s virtual unveiling of the Miuccia Prada-Raf Simons collaboration announced in February.
Their first collaboration expanded on their mutual devotion to fashion as a uniform, something utilitarian that allows the wearer the ease to both think and work. The designers joined the virtual audience for a dialogue after the presentation, responding to questions that had been submitted in advance.
‘’It is really a strange situation,’’ Prada said, sitting opposite Simons on socially distanced settees. ‘’It is my first show with Raf Simons and instead of being here with all of our friends in the industry, and all of our community, we are alone. But in fact, what is really exciting is that we are not alone at all. Now we are with so many more people. That is new at least for me.’’
Highlights from Thursday’s shows during Milan’s hybrid fashion week of mostly womenswear collections for Spring-Summer 2021:
MIUCCIA PRADA AND RAF SIMONS DIALOGUE BEGINS
The Raf Simons-Miuccia Prada collaboration was always going to be a dialogue between the designers -- two of the most respected in the industry. Lockdown transformed it also into a dialogue between technology and humanity.
Prada said that she had always ‘’tried to ignore’’ technology. But during Italy’s strict lockdown, which shut down all nonessential industries, Prada said that she began to see technology as ‘’a kind of extension of ourselves.’’
The creations were presented in a short film of models walking through a canary yellow draped and carpeted space, past a myriad of movie cameras. Models clutched wraps at their chests, a protective image symbolic of the global hunkering down during the coronavirus pandemic. The rectangular wrap gave shape to the collection’s main proposal: garments as utility, or adornment, depending on the materials — nylon, fleece or satin.
The female uniform for next spring -- a time far enough in the future to hope for relief from the pandemic -- featured A-line pleated skirts, the sort Prada herself currently favors in white, accompanied by knitwear, some with holes to reveal skin or underlayers. Sheath dresses in yellow and pink bore the inverted triangular Prada logo as a breast plate, set off by artworks by Peter de Potter, a long-term collaborator of Simons. Waists were cinched, and hair worn straight, unadorned.
Simons said the Prada uniform ‘’is not literally as we perceive them when we hear this word, not army or police uniforms, but effectively true metaphorical ones.’’
The designers said their collaboration was an easy one -- despite lockdown delays -- that saw their vision strengthened when it was backed by the other. ‘’That is very consoling, that someone I trust has the same idea. You feel better, stronger,’’ Prada said.
In a bid for democracy in luxury fashion, anyone can access the same preview experience as fashion insiders on Prada’s YouTube channel.
MAX MARA’S RENAISSANCE
Max Mara gave Milan Fashion Week its physical bearings, with a runway show around the porticoed courtyard of the Brera Painting Gallery, safe from threatening skies.
The fashion crowd sat on distanced cubes facing an imposing bronze of Napoleon, as Max Mara previewed its feminine uniform for next spring and summer. The fashion house said it was creating looks for ‘’a new Renaissance’’ as it reshapes its silhouette for a world that must reshape itself from the pandemic.
Strict touches were mixed with feminine flow: A mini tunic flowed into palazzo pants, to be disciplined by a tailored jacket. Sleeves on blazers and trenches were slit for maximum freedom of movement, or prettily embellished with ruffled gators details. Oversized pockets were placed on bellowed sleeves and jacket backs. Brocade quilting on tops and accents on sleeves provided understated ornate touches. Bags included mini pouches and overnight satchels.
The collection was rooted in monochromatic neutrals offset by soothing hues of sage, teal, peach and pink.
YOUNG DESIGNERS SPOTLIGHTED
The Italian fashion council is putting an emphasis on young designers, with 13 brands being hosted in the city’s premier department store, Rinascente, with both valuable floor space and show window exposure. Many of the younger brands are taking advantage of the hybrid events, and smaller crowds, to host physical shows in intimate settings.
Simona Marziale previewed her MRZ contemporary knitwear on Wednesday, featuring layered looks of sheer knitwear over tunics and knit trousers, and soft blazers with wide Bermuda shorts.
VIEN designer Vincenzo Palazzo offered an optimistic message on Thursday, emblazoning the runway with the neon message: ’’Make Fashion Wonderful Again." The looks played with deconstruction and clashing moods, offering peek-a-boo detailing more to show off Millennial tattoos than skin, fluffy skirts made out of gathered tulle and pretty floral dresses contrasting with jackets reconstructed into structural gathers and ruffles. Models wore safety goggles — apt for the pandemic — and elaborate headgear.
Palazzo said he was inspired by alternative rock he listened to in the 1990s, which he rediscovered in a box at home during lockdown. ‘’If you think about it, most musical and social revolutions come from difficult periods. Think of punk and hip hop,'' he said backstage. "This difficult moment can bring a revolution.’’