Having joined Prada as co-creative director, Raf Simons, alongside Miuccia Prada, just released the brand's first spring/summer 2021 collection. (Simons was previously at Calvin Klein and before that, Jil Sander and Christian Dior.) The two creatives produced a show around the idea of technology and humankind. Given that we're still in a pandemic, the traditional runway with an audience in attendance was scrapped, leaving models to debut the spring 2021 ensembles to a virtual crowd in front of panning cameras. The physical environment of the show was created by OMA/AMO (they've previously designed for Prada's shows) with the technology serving as runway decor—think chandeliers of monitors and cameras. The models walked to a soundtrack by Plastikman, a.k.a. British-Canadian electronic musician Richie Hawtin, which included the names of every woman modeling in the show. This season, the Prada cast featured all-new models who have never walked a runway before—a major debut moment to be noted.
At the heart of the latest Prada collection was the idea of a uniform, both in a metaphorical and physical sense. There wasn't one specific uniform but several kinds, from the "uniform of Prada, of a community, a visual representation of identity, of shared and embraced values, a way of thinking," to what the word uniform means to Simons and Miuccia. (Simons says that his personal uniform is quite simple and that a uniform, to him, must express something more timeless than a season-specific fashion item. Miuccia notes that her uniform is ever-changing, but right now it's a blue sweater and a cotton pleated skirt.)
The actual uniforms you see in the spring/summer 2021 collection are pared back and refined without excessive decoration, save for Prada's iconic triangle-shape logo at the neck of many outfits (a sweater with holes to let the inner layer show, straight pants in neutral tones, and overcoats in industrial re-nylon). This season, it's clear the two designers focused on simplicity, reducing "clothing to an essence, to the essential." You'll see this in pieces like the wrap coat models clutched to keep it close and in the sleek matching top/bottom sets devoid of all embellishments. Meanwhile, the pockets in some of the looks represented the functional aspects of wearing them, speaking to "living and life, of the usefulness of clothes in a dialogue with the human body."
At the end of the show, both Simons and Miuccia took the time to answer a few pre-screened questions from fans, which felt strangely intimate, given that all of us were watching though a screen. The illuminating discussion included a question about whether anything in fashion is "new" anymore. This rings relevant for Simons, since he just joined Prada and is working with another designer to craft an evolved vision of the brand. Less focused on reinventing the iconic fashion house or his style completely, Simons says it all comes down to how you define the word new. "Every designer wants to be new, but when you're in it for a long time, few decades, it's being able to refresh your own body of work and me, personally, the definition of new is really something we've never seen before. It's a new person coming in, new generation. They should bring new."