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The first collection by Raf and Miuccia for Prada: what can we expect?

By Nora Veerman

23 Sep 2020

In February it was announced that the Belgian designer Raf Simons was appointed as creative director at Italian fashion brand Prada. It became clear from the press release at the time that he was going to share creative direction of the brand with permanent chief designer Miuccia Prada. On Thursday during Milan fashion week Spring/Summer 2021, the pair will present their first joint collection. What can we expect from the collaboration between these two idiosyncratic designers? FashionUnited has some predictions.

Raf Simons SS20 and Prada AW2019, via Catwalkpictures

Ugly chic with chunky soles

Raf Simons graduated in 1991 from the LUCA School of Arts in Genk, Belgium as an industrial and interior designer. He entered the fashion world through his girlfriend Veronique Branquinho and friends like Willy Vanderperre and in 1995, started his own menswear label. Simons' designs were initially often inspired by the fashion trends of alternative youth cultures. The designer mixed overly preppy college looks with references to music-related scenes , such as grunge and metal. Simons' collections were often young, metropolitan and a tad sinister.

Similar to Simons' rebellious students in rolled-up trousers, frayed sweaters and goth-soled shoes, Prada's office wear also refused to conform. Miuccia's signature style has often been described as 'ugly chic': her looks are often elegant and businesslike, but always slightly more square, slightly shorter, slightly more childish or more dramatic than the office dress code would dictate - think of the recurring combination of high stockings in bold loafers, for example. It is precisely these inflated proportions and raw edges that make the work of both Simons and Prada so fascinating. Perhaps we will see them in next Thursday's collection.

Raf Simons for Jil Sander SS07. Image: Filippo Monteforte / AFP

Technical minimalism

Prada was founded in 1913 as a leather goods boutique by brothers Mario and Martino Prada. For years, the company mainly imported and sold leather bags and suitcases. Granddaughter Miuccia Prada joined Prada in 1970 and became owner in 1978. Her unique vision would transform the company. In 1979 she launched a first line of waterproof backpacks made of nylon, a material that until then was mainly used for protective covers. The bags did not immediately catch on, but eventually became a big hit. The combination of sporty tech materials with Prada's experience in craftsmanship became a key feature of the women's ready-to-wear line launched in 1989, and of which Miuccia - until now - would remain the sole chief designer. Her sleek looks with low waists and narrow belts became extremely popular in the 1990s. The play with the texture and transparency of tech fabrics brought tension to the silhouettes.

This technical minimalism would also become typical of Raf Simons' later work. In the mid-nineties, Simons' collections became more businesslike and more focused on form, construction and material. In 2005 he was appointed chief designer at Jil Sander, where he created a women's line for the first time. Simons brought playfulness to the then strictly minimalist Jil Sander, with moving lines, unexpected volumes and translucent fabrics, just as Miuccia did earlier with Prada. The two designers will probably find each other in their attention to the qualities of technological and innovative materials.

Raf Simons for Dior. Image: Terry Rice / Getty Images via AFP; Prada AW10. Image: AFP

Influences from art and film

Both Simons and Miuccia Prada are known for their love of visual art. Raf Simons worked with artist Sterling Ruby several times during his career, including for his first couture collection for Dior, where he worked for several years as head designer after leaving Jil Sander. In the SS17 collection of his eponymous fashion house, he integrated photos by the renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Miuccia Prada founded her own museum with her husband in 2015, the Fondazione Prada in Milan. Picturesque prints and sculptural forms can also be discovered here in her work.

Prada AW13. Image: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP. Raf Simons for Calvin Klein SS19, via Catwalkpictures

Film is also an inspiration for both designers, albeit in different ways. At Prada, the connection with film is mainly in the dramatics of some collections, such as the autumn 2013 collection, which looks like a cross between Gone with the Wind and La Dolce Vita: think of Scarlett O'Hara standing in the Trevi Fountain, plaid dress and all, water dripping from her hair. Simons used poster images from the horror film Jaws in his spring 2019 collection for Calvin Klein, where he worked between 2016 and 2018. His models also took to the catwalk with a wet look, but the result was hardly romantic, rather - as we are used to from Simons - beautiful in an alienating way.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL, translated and edited to English.

Homepage image: Raf Simons during Calvin Klein SS19, via Catwalk pictures