Prada F/W 2016

Gangs of New Amsterdam

Ours is an age of almost unequalled vanity. An era of tolerance and liberation but also one of supreme self-indulgence. A self-indulgence coupled with a pride of self that has fueled an enormous expansion in the pursuit and consumption of luxury. A quest that has helped turn Milan into one of the richest city’s on earth; a mania that has elevated over a dozen Italian luxury labels into multi billion Euro companies, few more glamorously so than Prada.

It’s been a boom, which has also financed an era of incredibly inventive fashion runway stage sets, the latest of which was unveiled Sunday evening by Miuccia Prada. A beautiful blend of dreamy De Chirico columns and conceptual court house – a hyper designed barn replete with columns, decks and sunken seating all made in compressed chip board. Prada annually changes its sets and by virtue of the fashion calendar the industry gets their first glimpse during the Italian January menswear runway season. Albeit that in recent season’s Signora Prada includes a good dozen women’s passages in her men’s shows.

However, just as the building of an exact replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre did not at all lead to a better understanding of the Immortal Bard’s plays; neither did this marvelous set produce a noticeably better fashion collection. If anything the opposite. There is always lots to see in a Prada show; and some great product swept along this wooden catwalk. Fantastic new brogues with golfer tassels; clever purses with pistolero straps; all worn with a slew of charming mannish shirts and blouses, over-printed with modernist baroque images courtesy of French-born, but Berlin-based, artist Christophe Chemin.

One of the hybrid looks Prada
One of the hybrid looks

However, the heart of the collection just felt plain weird – and very self-indulgent. To wit, a dozen or more 18th century style frock coats, finished with multi-buttons; made in faded denim or nubby wool and done with contrasting elbow patches and detachable collars and hoods. It was hard to know who other than an acolyte or a spoilt fashion editor, would ever wear these coats, and where.  This slightly New Amsterdam feeling, yes we’re talking about the residents of New York when it was still owned by the Dutch, made for a somber and slightly sad mood. Nothing unfamiliar at Prada but a bit too down for the beginning of the New Year. Her gang of men with detachable white shirt collars dangling in the back to look like a sailor’s bib, the men’s purses on dangling belts, the shrunken knitwear all had the codes of belonging to a gang but in this outing not the one you want to join. Also, the women’s wear far overpowered the men’s.

The Prada gang Prada
The Prada gang

Powered on by a great soundtrack – notably Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s epic Murder Ballad, Where the Wild Roses Grow, and worn by an evocative casting it made for a great show. But not however an important collection. Prada’s whole claim to fame has been based on Miuccia’s remarkable ability to mingle high and low, art and trash, to create distinctive clothes that somehow impart intelligence to the wearer. This collection will turn the client more likely into a fashion victim. A moment when self-indulgence took over.

Taken apart, pieces were brilliant like this jacket Prada
Taken apart, pieces were brilliant like this jacket