Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada’s first menswear show championed a surprising basic: Long johns

Chloe Street
·3-min read
 (Prada)
(Prada)

“For me the game of clothes is a fantastic game,” said Miuccia Prada following the debut of the first Prada menswear collection she co-designed with Raf Simons. “You change how people perceive you, and also how you perceive yourself.”

And the power duo’s first menswear offering, which debuted via an online fashion show on Sunday, certainly gave Prada fans much to play with.

Centring on our need, as humans, for physical contact, the collection was “about tactility and the physical feeling clothes can give you,” said Simons, who joined the Prada fold just under a year ago.

Sensory stimulation thus came via leather, boucle tweeds, jacquard knits and pinstripe wool suiting, and also via the abstract, brilliantly hued interiors through which the models walked. These were designed by Rem Koolhaas and AMO and constructed from an unexpected mix of materials like marble, resin, plaster and faux fur that post-show, Prada plans to up-cycle into special product installations and pop-ups.

The Prada mens AW21 show space, designed by Rem KoolhaasPrada
The Prada mens AW21 show space, designed by Rem KoolhaasPrada

“It’s a space of warmth and tactility,” explained Mrs Prada, “designed to feel both inside and outside, and full of feelings and humanity.”

This inside-outside contrast was felt in the clothes themselves, which threw thermal bodysuits under tailoring, highlighting the current tensions between the real world and our very indoor lives. “It’s a collection connected to the feelings of the human being and related to our situation right now,” said Simons.

In fact, these knitted bodysuits – or Long Johns as Simons referred to them – were worn with every single look in the show and came in a broad range of fabrics, from fine jacquard in Prada’s classic geometric prints, through to thick mohair. Second skins emphasising the theme of cosiness and seclusion, these all-in-ones could be interpreted as either childlike or vaguely sexual but, said Simons, “it [the Long John] is not to be taken literally. We don’t want it to be assessed as either a romper or Long John, but rather as an abstract idea of the body and concealment, a representation of the body itself.”

Prada menswear AW21Prada
Prada menswear AW21Prada

“If you want it sexy, it can be sexy, if you want it pyjama-like, it can be pyjama-like,” confirmed Mrs Prada, as she noted the myriad styling possibilities presented by the garment. A colourful geometric Prada thermal underlayer goes under everything and anything, and with the weather we are having, certainly sounds like a chic and sensible idea.

The silhouettes themselves were reduced and essential in structure, with tight pants and large comfortable tops a mainstay. “We wanted a calmness in shape,” confirmed Simons. “We don’t really feel it’s appropriate right now to be too exuberant and show off.”

That said, a pair of leather gloves that came in a fiery orange complete with an inbuilt card wallet would certainly be loud enough to get a few looks when tapping in on the tube.

After their last show, Simons and Mrs Prada held an online Q+A that was open to all. This time they followed a similar format but opened the conversation exclusively to a selection of fashion, art, design, architecture and philosophy students from colleges and universities around the world. Not only was the intimate discussion a brilliant way to nurture and inspire the next generation of future creatives but also, as Mrs Prada explained, “they can help us by throwing back difficult questions that are uncomfortable and make us think.”

Prada menswear AW21Prada
Prada menswear AW21Prada

Self-reflection, change and adaptability are something we have all had to learn in the last year, and evidently something Mrs Prada embraces, not least through her new collaboration with Simons.

“All my life I hated pinstripe and this show is full of pinstripe,” she said. “Sometimes it’s good to change your mind.”