Prada Spring/Summer 2018 Menswear Show

Comics both inspired and illustrated this collection, but there were no capes—just plenty of fine topcoats in herringbone, bird’s-eye, or plain camel and gray wool.

Backstage afterwards, Miuccia Prada said that the central idea this season was “really that on one side is the virtual reality and on the other is the reality of the human part.” She is, she confessed, no avid reader of comic books (or graphic novels, as aficionados like to term them). Yet she was drawn to them as a decorative motif for her central thesis because: “They are hand-drawn, human, simple and real. Even if they contain of course all the worst fantasy, they look simple. . . . They are little fragments of life, which is what you get now from the information, the media: So I was more and more attracted by them. Even if I never liked them.”

The audience was introduced to Prada’s graphic commissions as we walked into its vaulted Via Fogazzaro space. Panels by longtime house collaborator James Jean and Belgian graphic artist Ollie Schrauwen were painted over floor, wall, and roof. Even the outlines of the vaults were emphasized with comics-inspired black borders. “We asked them to do stories that wouldn’t be too superhero, but to push the human point,” said Mrs. Prada. The mishmash of panels included a shaven-headed male figure looking up at a cloudless suburban sky, a recurring space-helmeted simian firing some kind of laser beam from his eyes, a giant ant looming over a house, and a rushing locomotive.

When the clothes came, it was to a soundtrack that started, stopped with a scratchy shudder, restarted, and then skipped to something else—a mix as fragmented as the collage of graphic images. The clothes too, were purposefully jumbled. Full-shouldered shirts in red or black nylon with sleeves pulled to the bicep then fixed with a Prada Velcro tab were worn, collar up, over similarly collar-popped bengal striped shirting. Oversized fanny packs were worn at the small of the back. Shoes at the beginning were similarly technical and Velcro-strapped, a cousin of the sportswear in Prada Resort, but quickly morphed into a rapidly changing medley of two-tone loafer, sandal, and old-school basketball-style sneaker. Pants were either wide and woolen, pulled high and secured with a narrow belt at the top, or tapered, narrowish, and nylon, secured with a Prada Velcro tag at the ankle. Whether topped by cardigan, coat, jumpsuit, or shirt, there was always a litany of layering at the neckline—collars again mostly popped.

The graphic section—don’t look away now—started at look eight with a gray sweater starring that laser-eyed space monkey. You could see but not read the outlines of comic panels in poppily ’80s pink and blue hues on a narrow belt bisecting a striped cotton jumpsuit, worn over a comic cell shirt. Later there were blousons, short-sleeved shirts, more knits, a jumpsuit, a short mac, and bags featuring more of the Prada Amazing Stories: These moved fast and will require further reading.

The graphic lines on socks pulled high under short shorts, and on two blue knit polo shirts near the end were also strongly reminiscent of Resort—those Belle Epoque ironwork lines inspired by Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Plus the jumpsuits also featured labels seen in Resort. Mrs. Prada shrugged: “Those labels, they were such a utilitarian part and you need that—and as I can’t steal labels from the others, I have to use mine!” And why so many jumpsuits? “They are my last obsession,” she replied.

Prada trophy hunters will leap to add this collection’s highly recognizable graphic pieces as totems to their ongoing obsession. There was also, however, plenty in this collection for a Pradaman more inclined to Clark Kent’s aesthetic; a suite of three suits in beige, pink, and olive with flashes at the inner leg and wrist, plus all those beautifully simple coats. So, were they meant as cape equivalents for customers in search of Pradapower? No, reported Miuccia: “Everything was a little bit too naive, too simple, so we thought these heavy coats would be the right counterpart. That is just fashion—because we love it.”

by Luke Leitch

Prada Spring/Summer 2018 Menswear Show