Positive nostalgia

Prada FW24: bows, bikers and the meaning of fashion
By Barry Pierce | Fashion | 23 February 2024

Much like Orpheus in the Underworld, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada cannot help looking back. The show notes for their Women’s FW24 collection claimed that “antecedents literally fashion the present.” In other words, everything that came before influences everything yet to come. It may not seem like it, but that is a somewhat dangerous sentiment to espouse in contemporary fashion discourse where, mostly on Instagram, the act of one designer referencing another designer’s work isn’t a friendly shout-out but is, instead, deemed appropriation.

The show notes took the example of biker jackets, which appeared in this collection as extremely form-fitting garments as if the models had been sewn straight into them. They are the uniform of a subculture, technically, but nobody thinks of them like that anymore. In the show, they were paired with some very classically Miuccia deconstructed thigh-length grey office skirts, which totally worked despite being a forced combination of two disparate worlds. And how is one meant to look at Look #38 and not immediately see that famed press image of Brando in The Wild One? A film that was initially an exposé into the world of biker gangs, but which ended up being responsible for introducing that style of dress to the world.

“A knowledge of history not only informs the contemporaneous, but defines it,” the show notes continued. But what made this Prada collection so good was the fact that you didn’t need these show notes as a cheat sheet. One single glance at the runway, at the dresses overwhelmed in Victorian-style bows, at the sheer dresses patterned in wallpaper-like furry motifs, at the very 70s sleeveless knits, at the varsity jackets, at the gorpcore garments at the runway’s finish, you knew that this season Raf and Miuccia were referencing all of the styles and fads and materials and moments that had come before.

The show was about “positing questions” and “engaging responses”. Why have all of these styles persisted into the modern day? Why have some completely vanished? Why are bows such a thing at the moment? Whatever happened to mink stoles? With this collection, Raf and Miuccia wanted us all to turn to our inner critic and, for once, not just to look and fawn but examine and ask. And for that, they are two of the bravest designers in the world.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Prada WOMENS-FALL-WINTER-24