Prada Menswear Fall/Winter 2021-22
Credit: Instagram @prada

Amidst another fashion week season, once again marked by isolation, Prada delivered a collection that celebrates the intimacy of closeness. In some ways, this may seem like an obvious choice, given the events of the past year. The yearning many of us feel to rejoin the world and one another and break free of what can certainly feel like a never ending cycle of separation, aptly dubbed social distancing.

However, the collection unveiled by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons is anything but obvious – it is as humble in its inspiration as it is nuanced in its interpretation and expression. Speaking in the Zoom conference after the show, both Prada and Simons emphasised that their inspiration for the collection began with a desire to stir feelings and emotions, rather than to convey a complex web of abstract references and underlying messages.

Prada Menswear FW/2021-22
Prada Menswear FW/2021-22 Look 1 / Credit: Prada

In fact, this desire to express feelings through fashion took on a literal definition for Simons, who noted that the various expressions of texture and tactility were a deliberate vehicle by which to convey not only the feelings which clothing stirs within us, but also the physical feeling of clothing itself. “This collection deals with the juxtaposition of softness and hardness to express the reality of the world, and at the same time, express also the possible feelings that everybody has dealing with this isolation,” said Simons.

Indeed, these notions of isolation and duality were top of mind for Simons and Prada when designing not only the collection, but the set and the environment in which it would be presented. The brand collaborated with Rem Koolhaas and AMO to devise the show’s “non-spaces” – defined by panes of marble, resin, plaster and faux fur. Deliberately inviting and seductive, they can pretend to be both interior and exterior, hard and soft, warm and cold: simultaneously both and neither, allowing for the viewer’s freedom to interpret their expression.

“It was not important for us to create a narrative architectural context for this collection, more, a feeling context,” revealed Simons after the show, to which Prada added: “In this case, architecture helped us to describe the idea and the feelings we had. This kind of strange, abstract place that is not inside or not outside with materials that lends a lot to tactility, to sensuality”.

The collection itself was an artfully curated mix of both Simons’ and Prada’s signature aesthetics. Long-term fans of both brands would identify signature Raf Simons’ styling and silhouettes with the oversized coats and off-kilter tailoring, with sleeves pushed up to expose printed knitwear sleeves underneath, mixed alongside new, often textural interpretations of the Prada logo and utilitarian elements – notably in the zipper pockets adorning the coloured gloves.

Prada Menswear FW/2021-22
Prada Menswear FW/2021-22 Look 17 / Credit: Prada

Standouts worth highlighting include the pastel-coloured shearling overcoats styled alongside bags in bold hues, oversized bomber jackets with voluminous sleeves which ended in the aforementioned pocket gloves in complementary colours and the wide array of knitted long johns – the purest and most explicit expression of the collection’s desire to achieve closeness.

“We started talking very early on about what kind of piece could represent something very close to the body, literally being almost a representation of the body. We were looking for something that could be maybe a symbolic piece for all these kinds of feelings that we feel right now,” revealed Simons, who considered that these “body pieces” (which featured as or under every look presented) once again represented this duality between the intimacy and closeness of the body, whilst also expressing an abstract notion of protection or insulation for the body against the unknowns of the world we find ourselves in.

This was the first time Prada has presented an entire menswear collection under the co-creative leadership of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, and as possibly the most-anticipated collection reveal of this season’s fashion week schedule, Prada certainly did not disappoint.