No one comes to Milan fashion week for “useful clothes”. Still, this was the verdict of director Luca Guadagnino, who sat in the front row on Sunday: “Useful, yes, wearable, yes, all those things. Anyone can wear this.”
Price list aside, his point was this: As in previous collections, Prada took items you might already own—a ribbed white vest, a backpack—and turned them into must-have pieces. They did the same with duffle coats, donkey jackets, black office brogues and navy parkas. Sometimes fashion is a mirror to what is happening in the world, but sometimes it reminds us of what we already own.
“The most honest thing we can do is create something useful for people today,” designer Miuccia Prada said of the Fall/Winter 2023 show she co-designed with Raf Simons, who joined in 2020. “We’re always talking about reality, and we, as designers, we are very aware of what is going on, the problems, the difficulties.”
The A4-sized bag made from aluminum floors that you can see at the bottom of the lido might not seem particularly useful, but these carried water bottles. Fancy bags aren’t just for your laptop, smartphone and Moleskin notebook – they’re also there to carry your lunch.
With all the star-studded front rows and megawatt glamour, fashion week can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s also not unusual for designers to become fascinated with ordinary wardrobes, pick out the most interesting pieces and try to sell them back to us at higher prices. It is late capitalism after all. But even if you can’t afford these things, you can still get the Prada look by checking out a thrift store, Milan’s Navigli market, or your teenage son’s wardrobe.
There were also enough moments of craziness among the jackets to satisfy true Prada fans. Bright white round coats that resembled quilts without covers; unpredictable color combinations (blue and brown) and, in a slight twist to his usual anti-sexy attitude, even some bare torsos. Five brushed leather tunics draped over skinny pants might take a while to translate to the street, but they were among Guadagnino’s slightly less “utilitarian” favorites.
As any great designer knows, it can be difficult to balance the commercial demands of a brand with making the things you want. Prada didn’t achieve sales of €3.3bn (£2.9bn) in 2021 – or become the second most popular brand in the world according to Lyst, the global fashion aggregator – by making things that weren’t desirable either.
Adam DiMarco, best known for his role as Albie in White Lotus, agreed. “I’m Italian, so I always knew what Prada was. But no, I didn’t grow up with it – I’m just trying to grow into it,” he told the Guardian. “I’m still just a fan.”