Prada Cruises Into The Familiar

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Five years is a long time to take a break. Prada last showed a resort (also known as cruise) collection back in 2013, as part of the men’s autumn/winter show. One suspected that Prada sailed into the cruise season because many luxury labels were showing post-fall collections, not because Prada really desired too. It could also be boosting the product offerings to better position its stock prices to rise.

For her first standalone cruise collection, Miuccia Prada did not deviate from what she had done before. In fact, according to media reports, she told journalists backstage that “a show should just be a show.” Ms Prada is not one to bend to industry norms, so none of the superfluous descriptions—whether cruise or resort—for her. Milan is, therefore, good enough for the show, not some far-flung place as preferred by the likes of Dior. This is just home-turf Prada, pure and simple.

And it was. Just as the cruise of five years ago was Prada unadulterated (those geeky suits and poor-taste colours), the cruise-now-gone-solo is reprise of those designs elements that Ms Prada have come to love, or, perhaps, have been selling well for the brand. If you’re looking for conceptual brilliance, such as in the spring 2013 collection, you may be disappointed. This is Prada giving you what Prada has always offered.

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What are obvious are the pantsuits or samfus, as we know them: exactly two, both with marabou cuffs on the tops that are similar to those we first saw in the presentation for the current spring/summer season. Only now they’re glammed up with neck pieces and hemlines of chained metallic discs that from a distance have the same effect (and possibly appeal) as paillettes. Glittery pyjama style for holidays taken by Carrie Bradshaw and co, or for the opening of Oriental-theme exhibitions attended by the likes of Grace Coddington.

Second time round, too, is the illustrations of James Jean. Back in 2008, Mr Jean’s fairy-like illustrations were used to stunning effect for the spring/summer collection, which, somewhat unusual for Prada then, was rather ethereal. This time, Mr Jean’s curly lines, flowers and rabbits are intertwined with the brand’s name, and they appear on accessories as well as bags. For those who missed the James Jean collaboration the first time, there’s now a chance to revisit it.

Also reprised is the Prada ID: versatile black nylon that earned it its status and fortune. But they do not come in the form of bags. Ms Prada is not that kind of revivalist. The fabric she made famous is fashioned into sporty garments: blouson-like outerwear, as well as pants. It is interesting that rather than using the nylon for blazers (as she had done for the men’s wear in the past, and still does), she gives this gender-neutral fabric a feminine flourish—the tops are worn off-shoulder and the sleeves hang like deflated leg-o’-mutton.

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Typically Prada, few things are left as you’d expect. We like the play on different fabric weights: the sheer over sheer or completely opaque. Optical, too, are how the embellishments contrast each other, such as bejeweled sheer tops backgrounded by the blurred appliqués of the pieces below. This interplay of densities also yielded, in quite a few looks, multiple necklines in one outfit. It is tempting to dismiss this as a styling trick, but we’re inclined to believe that this is very much a deliberate design move, even if Ms Prada has always made her mixes uncalculated.

Relooking at the collection as stills, we thought that, while there is no doubt Prada is Prada, there is also some Miu Miu thrown in the mix—such as the off-beat girliness and the fondness of wearing coats with neckline splayed. It’s tempting to think that somehow bridging the season means bringing the sibling brands together. The Prada customer is also very likely a Miu Miu customer.

And it did also cross our mind that holidaymakers may find what Prada proposes to be too effort-driven. Assuming this is targeted at the resort-bound market, we’re not sure there are that many women who would spend precious time putting on these delicate layers and multi-strand neck wear instead of frolicking on the beach or exploring the hillside. Or maybe there are. Anna dell Russo, we suspect, enjoys her holidays—make-up, get-up, et al.

Photos: Prada

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