“I don’t like the word cruise,” declared Miuccia Prada after well, what was in fact, Prada’s first cruise show. That sounds like a deliberately contrary thing to say when venturing into but I think what Miuccia really meant was that she these clothes that form a pre collection in between the two main ready to wear seasons aren’t just for the jet set cruising folk. They’re clothes that spend the bulk of the year on a shop floor, hence why they’re given this mini schedule of experiential shows.
But even as Prada felt the commercial need to join the other biggie houses in showing their resort collection, they were never going to do so in a far-flung location. Another reason why the word “cruise” feels inappropriate. Instead we went to the historical heart of Prada. Moments away from their 150+ year old historical store in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is the Osservatorio, a new addition to the Fondazione Prada, which will play host to photography exhibitions. You clamber up and industrial staircase and find yourself in what feels like a secret of a space, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the iron framed cupola of the Galleria. For this particular showset, OMA/AMO deliberately designed a contrast between the grandiose curves of the central dome, conceived by Giuseppe Mengoni in the 19th century, with a surreal mirrored set and pink satin linear seating, flanked by photographic screens. Miuccia was fixated on the transparency of this setting – the view of the cupola seen from the Osservatorio, the panes of glass that loom over the resplendent shopping arcade and the flood of light coming into the space itself. It certainly felt wildly different to the Prada shows of norm, held in their headquarters in a windowless space.
The Osservatorio also happens to be a lot smaller than the normal Prada show space. All the better to appreciate Prada’s first standalone resort outing. The transparency in the venue prompted a delicate spread of Japanese organza-esque fabric worked into frothy lingerie layers, echoing the pastel hued cakes and confectionary of the Prada-owned iconic cafe Passticeria Marchesi 1824 downstairs, where we had lunch beforehand. Those ultra feminine underpinnings were contrasted with puffed up sportswear, like an off-the-shoulder tracksuit jacket with billowing sleeves, worn with knee high striped socks and chunky trainers. I love that there’s a hint of late Victoriana worked into the track tops.
“I wanted something contemporary – somehow sporty – and then for it to metamorphose into elegance and then vice versa,” said Miuccia. “I really had in mind what this place means in history and the beauty and charm of that period. There was a sensuality as well as an eccentricity.” And so the girls with their single feather headbands, girlish plaits and layers that flickered from club sportif to Belle Epoque promenade walked to a similarly juxtaposed soundtrack, where Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube, sampled by Malcom McLaren on a mash-up house track on his album Waltz Darling.
There was also an unabashed transparency about the way some of Prada’s greatest hits were recycled and remixed. Miuccia talked about her love of see-through fabrics in the 90s and add to that, you can tick off familiar Prada territory such as knee-high socks, techy nylons, diamanté and feather trims. But the most notable Prada archive resurrection was a repeat collaboration with the artist James Jean, who was responsible for the fluid Art Nouveau-ish lines of fairies and blossoms in the S/S 2008 collection. His signature florid lines this time featured illustrations of a reworking of the Prada logo and rampant pink bunnies. This time round, Jean’s illustrations were sensual rather than whimsical. There are many Prada collections that have been seared into my memory but that I particularly remember the frenzy of love for this one. It’s been a whole decade since that S/S08 collection and thus there’s enough distance for Miuccia to dip into her archives, reviving an artistic collaboration for a new generation of customers. No doubt, those illustrated bunny bags will fly. For the Prada faithful such as myself, that of course wasn’t the only cause for celebration in this collection. Much like the rows of mini fruit tarts and iced mini treats at Marchesi, you’re tempted to say, “One of everything, please!”