Utopia Of Normality In the Nexus of Prada, The Pleasures of Square Tanks, Skorts, and Bucket Hats at the Everyday Beach
By Long Nguyen
After several turns inside a square painted box tunnel, a male model wearing a black one-piece light cotton shirt-jumpsuit short with the hem of the short rolled up, a black canvas bucket hat, leather dress shoes, black socks, and an eco-nylon crossbody bag exited onto a sunny sandy beach. Meanwhile, other models already enjoyed the sun and the water perching on top of red rectangular panels waiting for the rest of the gang to join.
A sense of the utopian, the ideal, of hope, positivity. To expose yourself to nature, to go to the beach – it’s freedom. It is utopian. That is a primary need – and intellectual need, too. The world is so complicated – so overcomplicated – we can lose the essence of human life. This is an idea I have been interested in for several seasons and which we have been exploring in different ways. We come from previous collections that were all about technicality, machines that reflect the necessity of technology. Now, we are thinking of the opposite. Human, real.
– Miuccia Prada on the Spring 2022 men’s show
AMO, the architecture firm, designed the red box set, and the filming of the presentation took place both at the Fondazione Prada in Milano and Sardinia. Prada is supporting the Medsea Foundation to protect and restore the marine ecosystems with the reforestation of the Posidonia Oceanica meadows of Capo Carbonara, a marine plant of the Mediterranean Sea essential in marine life the absorption of CO2 emissions.
The show represents a transition – between a tunnel, an urban space, and the sea. We don’t feel it should be complicated – the story is pure, direct. A move from indoors to outdoors. After constrictions, the power of that feeling of infinity, an endless horizon. It gives you the feeling of freedom again. It’s human nature. What we are interested in is: how can these two moments, these two environments fuse together? A contrast between the system of the fashion industry – the runway – and nature. We started the previous Fall/Winter show to introduce these moments of different behaviors from the cast. Here, you see the models in another context, another environment, a different reality.
– Raf Simons, adding to the idea of the continuation of ongoing discourses
Absent in this spring outing is any high art associations or art collaborations, something like the dichotomy of tradition and revolution, that offer a respite of liberating fashion from the shell of overt intellectualism. Instead, the pleasure of fashion is outside in the sun and the seawater, out of the confines of the red-painted box now called “the tunnel to joy.”
The newest primary shapes of this stellar and refreshing show are a long-sleeve one-piece jumpsuit shirt short with drawstrings belting at the waist and a pair of shorts with a front skirt panel. That’s it, as more is unnecessary.
The streamlined show intends to dispel the myth of fashion, in this case, high fashion as the stuff of high art culture. The iconic Prada reverse triangle logo took a dip into the seawater as the bunch the models splashed themselves in the crisp white Sardinian water. Even the classic black leather dress shoes worn with black socks dipped in the sea with the same carefree. The sensuality clothes that touch the body, the body that touches the sun and the sea is the essence of this collection.
“The idea of the simplicity and humanity of the beach setting, and this show, is not a rejection of something from before. The last two collections were about touch, about feelings. Our collections at Prada are all about exploring different expressions of humanity, of people and emotion,” Simons specified on the continuity of the joint work.
Taking away the artifice means having clothes that are hardly noticeable as luxury fashion, much harder done than say. The universal truth of fashion here is just the mundane beach tank tops, skorts, and those bucket hats to shield from the sun’s rays couple with a single breast jacket here, and a biker jacket, a charcoal cardigan, or a pale blue hooded coat there.
The collection is very easy, practical, yet still elegant. There is a lot of swimwear – but also tailoring. Very pure, very simple. Not overloaded silhouettes. The same silhouettes are played in both situations, urban and beach, both locales, but different ways. The body is often on display – this collection celebrates the beauty of the human body and its freedom.
– Raf Simon, on design ethos behind the collection
As Simons said, the body has always been at the center of Prada and Simon’s fashion work. But, here, the focus of the male body is on the legs as there is just one outfit with pants – a square neck color stripe tank with loose black pants over stripe swim shorts – shown in the film highlighting just the primary looks of the new season. But, the body takes on alternative meaning here, not metaphysical, but real as the legs touch the water, merging nature and fashion.
Rather than fixing attention on asymmetry to craft clothes that ignore the male body, Prada and Simons are designers putting this body as the primary marker.
Tailoring remains a direct route to express different ideas about clothes and the body. Deconstruction of garments and the likes of, say, fragmented hems and unfinished trims are not within the essence of their design approaches, separately or together. Now, the tailoring is succinct.
The tailoring comes in a unique shape of the new single breast jacket – a slight drop shoulder straight line cuts, a rectangular, boxy fit with angular lapels with sleeves rolled up and flap pockets – in black wool. The cut denotes a more relaxed approach making these jackets more like an overshirt layered overprint square tank tops and matching shorts with front panel skirting.
A new design element on these jackets is the placement of the two buttons. By putting the two buttons slightly more inward on the front body of the jackets, when closed, these jackets give off a very slight illusion of a double breast as a way of tightening the center waistline. This same effect can be seen on the light pink knee-length coat, where the buttons are placed closer to the pockets.
Even the very light shirt jumpsuit shorts– in white cotton with mermaids prints or in striped cotton – have drawstrings to cinch the waist giving these jump-short summer suits their tailored shapes.
Here, the use of specific fabrics is an indicator of how the base of the materials of Prada’s fashion, especially men’s clothes, serve as a cultural mixer combining the high and low – the reification of luxuries like fine wools and cashmere intersect with nylon and now eco-nylon. A luxurious bright yellow leather biker jacket is paired with the knit skort, a boiled cashmere cardigan layered on top of a cotton jumpsuit, or the ‘aged’ brown leather jacket and knit square print sleeveless tank and skort. The uncomplicated fabrics serve to highlight the simple but great clothes.
What isn’t so easily noticeable in this short and fast-paced show is the transfer of heritage through materials instead of through the intellect of fashion.
One of the models walking in a group of four in the water wore a light green and shredded white lines pattern square tank and skirt panel front short. The green fabric came from the same material used for the jackets, tunics, and skirts of the women’s spring 1996 collection titled ‘Banal Eccentricity.’ This subtle mixing of known Prada heritage like this 1996 fabric intended to posit and weave the brand history into current products.
Perhaps the word ‘banal’ can be resurrected again now but with totally different implications – that fashion should be as banal as a trip to the beach. Or, as Prada mentioned, “the notion that living your life can be a euphoric experience, much joy can come out of something so simple.”