Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons on Digital Shows, Inspiring Disciplines and Collaborations

Luisa Zargani
·7 min read

MILAN Brands have been approaching the digital medium to present their collections in different ways and while the general goal is to return to physical runway shows, Miuccia Prada believes the efforts made so far should not go lost.

“Without a public, you need to be even more concentrated on what you say and to recreate an atmosphere. It’s much more difficult without people, and more difficult to show and then edit, find something that makes sense — before, it was like a promenade,” said the designer in a video conversation with Prada’s co-creative director Raf Simons and an eclectic group of talents and friends of the brand: Marc Jacobs; Academy Award nominated filmmaker, director, writer and producer Lee Daniels; electronic musician and DJ Richie Hawtin, or Plastikman; architect Rem Koolhaas, and actress and artist Hunter Schafer. Each was connected remotely and the virtual event, shown after the Prada fall 2021 show on Thursday, was moderated by Derek Blasberg, YouTube’s head of fashion and beauty.

More from WWD

“We will go back to reality, but we have to make sure this will not go lost and it will be interesting do both,” mused Prada.

“We were so used to having live shows and interaction, and we talked a lot with Rem about how to transport the feeling so that it looks like a show but we are not just filming a show, and how the space should relate to the clothes physically and psychologically,” said Simons.

The designers reprised for the women’s show the same set used for the men’s fall show in January, conceived by Koolhaas and AMO — interconnected rooms, each wallpapered with different materials, from slick marble to fluffy eco-fur in striking color combinations.

“A show has a degree of premeditation and strong degree of improvisation and you can always play with the idea of originality,” contended Koolhaas.

Daniels, who directed “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” and asked Prada to design a selection of costumes to be worn by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day in the title role, noted that in a show without a public, “you never take your eyes from the clothes, you are laser-focused on them” because there are no distractions like people-watching or front-row celebrities.

Asked about the evolution of the process since their first codesigned show in September, Simons said it has been easier now. “It was very difficult in the beginning” in deciding the format and whether to simply film a runway show or not.

Koolhaas said the video allowed the inclusion of different perspectives such as “opening with clothes shown from the back and disappearing in the distance.”

Hawtin said “thinking of the music, so very close to the fashion and the details, feels more intimate, rather than live. It’s symbiotic, we work on music as we are filming, it’s like Rem’s architecture, a framework that is there to support.”

Music can help build and retain the energy in a video, offered Simons, and contributes to hugely helping the end result.

Asked about his decision to work with Prada on his Billie Holiday film, Daniels said “outside of the work that is spectacular, she is a strong woman like Billie was a strong woman. I was nervous about asking her. She is an artist and she takes this very seriously. But I knew she would be fully committed, I couldn’t think of anyone else that could bring Billie’s style to life the way Mrs. Prada could.”

Schafer said acting in “Euphoria” made her realize how much clothing and makeup “accentuate elements of a scene, contrast in a cool way or bring something out. It was a massive learning experience.”

Prada was interested in finding out the disciplines that are more relevant to the panelists, just as movies or literature, for example, are to her.

Hawtin cited sculpture and Koolhaas anthropology, which helps him “understand the people we work for, their aspirations, habits, culture and aesthetics, as if you come from a different planet and interpret what you see and what it means.” In particular, he said he has enjoyed collaborating with fashion because of its “incredible speed, you can assemble something sublime in 15 seconds. Mixing the meticulous part of anthropology and the intuitive flashes of fashion is very crucial.”

“The art of living,” responded Jacobs, while also citing movies, art and music. “You need to be present and experience life on all levels. What we do is just one more aesthetic component of a beautiful life, like beautiful interiors and all of this.”

Blasberg’s request to define “Pradaness” sparked a few chuckles from Prada herself.

“Pradaness is Mrs. Prada,” said Jacobs. “No, don’t laugh Mrs. Prada,” he teased. While understanding the “intrinsic collaboration” with Simons, Jacobs cited her “incredible taste and eye for so many different things, it’s culture, intelligence, a sense of style, love of fashion. I see it as in a film of Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti. This is a mind that takes in anything, and you cannot put your fingers on it, it’s every gesture, everything.”

Koolhaas, who has long collaborated with Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, said he was “fascinated by the way that, when she dislikes something, it’s a very different form of disliking, it’s different than simply rejecting, it’s exploring every aspect of what you dislike and then you do something with that energy,” prompting Prada to laugh in the background and Simons to concur, saying, “It’s so true.”

“Fashion is a field that requires inspiration and life, as Marc said very well,” observed Prada. “We have to deal with architecture, music, with people performing and basically we have to somehow tell a story. Ultimately, it’s about life, we need all these other people’s intervention.”

Jacobs has not held a show yet this season and defined the conversation as “an interesting and educational creative outlet.” He admitted it was “difficult and weird to take time off, complaining in the past about the calendar and how it was like a hamster wheel and we could never take a break and now that we get a break we complain.” [Prada laughing]. “I miss the hamster wheel and the calendar and what I’ve been doing is paying close attention to the people I admire. This is why this is a very interesting and engaging conversation.”

Koolhaas then noted that the urgency of global warming and sustainability and collaborating with scientists, “with little sense of aesthetics and patience for formality,” have accelerated a generally slow-paced architecture, causing a “really drastic necessity to change. We have to throw all our priorities overboard, there is a sudden sense of urgency. It’s refreshing and we all need collaborations.”

“I totally agree,” said Prada. “We talked about light matters in this meeting, but in this moment, there are so many relevant political points, challenging the responsibility of the industry to behave well, to contribute to change and really be involved in matters such as diversity, gender, ecosystem. We can’t solve everything but it’s so important to be proactive and responsible and I really believe it’s so important to push on those subjects and take a step [in the right direction].”

The conversation, called “Prada Intersections,” is the third of the series, pointing to Prada and Simons’ curiosity and desire to open up to other communities to create a larger creative moment, aiming to challenge themselves with input from fresh voices. In January, following the fall 2021 men’s show, the designers engaged in a conversation with select students from international universities and colleges, each connected remotely. In September, the conversation between Prada and Simons was triggered by questions posed by the audience in advance of the show and submitted on prada.com.

Sign up for WWD's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.