AW18: Back to the future with Prada

prada1When it came to Prada, it was almost a case of what’s old was new at the label’s AW18 menswear show on Sunday. And it may have been mainly about menswear, but there was plenty of womenswear on show to give those of us who find menswear hard to get excited about something to look at.

prada2In some ways it felt like a trip back to the 90s as Miuccia Prada and her design team were inspired by the humble material that Prada made its own during that decade while the silhouettes and key items certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the era of Helmut Lang and Gap. Oasis-style bucket hats anyone?

prada3But it felt modern too. What mattered here was a functionality and simplicity that was a complete reaction against the maximalist army of which Gucci’s Alessandro Michele is commander-in-chief (and even against the maximalism that Prada itself has embraced in recent seasons.)

prada4Take the bags. Squishy, often oversized, unadorned. They were almost enough to make us think that our beaded, butterfly-embellished, gem-encrusted bags in plush velvet, multi colour snakeskin or metallic leathers are a little – dare I say it? – OTT.

Almost, but not completely. Maximalism still has some way to go but Prada’s boxy padded jackets, shirts, cagoules and coats are certainly food for thought.

prada5It wasn’t completely plain of course. The collection had its bright spots, whether that was the impact of a neon-toned bucket hat set against a black top and pants, or a bifurcated top featuring heritage prints from the Prada archive. And those prints were virtually a roll call of past collections – roses, geometrics, geek prints, bananas, flames. You might even remember the collection they appeared in first if you’re old enough.

prada6Pattern also made an impact on some of the coats where the label tapped into a successful formula it used for AW17 with all the interest focused only on the lower third of the piece.

Quite what season it all was is open to question. Much of its looked wintry but some of those prints came from earlier summer collections.

prada7As mentioned, it was billed as men’s AW18 and the women’s offer was billed that way too. But this was far from a full women’s collection and there’s always the Milan women’s show next month to take into account, so let’s just call it pre-fall 18 for now.

prada8But maybe naming the season isn’t the point. Modern delivery schedules – and the global lifestyle of the luxury shopper – means anything as old-fashioned as a season is ever-more-irrelevant. Prada may have been partly looking back with this collection but with the need to stimulate sales and drive profits higher being increasingly urgent, the company has its eyes very firmly fixed on the future.

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