For Prada Spring/Summer 2023, the house embraces a sense of crudeness with unfinished hemlines and ripped slits, which rejected the polished and manipulated images we're used to seeing on the runway.
An invitation arrives ahead of the Prada Spring/Summer 2023 show. It’s a solemn black receptacle containing the invite with a separate compartment that holds a box with a small aperture. Peeping inside, I see the words “A Touch of Crude by NWR.” NWR is Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish filmmaker who shot to fame with 2011’s Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. Refn weaves slick worlds with a distinct neo-noir style. I saw his film Neon Demon in theaters twice because it was so visually compelling.
NWR, as goes his preferred moniker, is Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ collaborator this season, and he conceived the show experience inside, which Prada dubbed the “panopticon”. Inside the venue, it was almost pitch black, save for a few searing spotlights to show the way. Into the Prada rabbit hole we sailed, bumping against famous people who look a lot different in real life than they do on our phone screens. It felt like stepping into a dollhouse dream. The walls were upholstered in black fabric that were pockmarked with peeled-back squares of torn cardboard forming a windowpane through which I could see digital screens on the other side. They played a loop of drowsy bedroom scenes; it was like we were all seated inside of a box peering into another world.
Macabre dollhouse music swelled as the show began, lead by two fantastically proportioned coats, followed by a skintight bodysuit that resembled longjohns. Soon after came an ephemeral gauzy dress, which the show notes said was made of a paper-based fabric “torn against the body”. Rough-hewn rips and unfinished seams made the clothes seem like they were unraveling. The way some collars laid squashed and flat against the body made me feel as if they had just been relinquished from a dusty attic corner. Co-ed ensembles bore ripped slits on the skirt, and dyed silk frocks bore the same motif. Some pieces were held closed by the models’ hands, a gesture that is a Prada signature. The gauzy, translucent fabrics used for Victorian-esque dressing gowns, oversized coats, and dresses alike were especially interesting. Prada’s stuff always seems sturdy, and this made it feel like a paper doll cut-out version of Prada. The models all came out in immense Kewpie doll lashes, hammering the point home.
Accessories were another strong point. Enormous nylon totes, the Prada ‘Borsa’ bag (which was doubled for Spring/Summer 2023), chic duffels, little totes, and fabulous Mary Janes that flipped up at the nose are all coming for your wallets next season.
Finally, there was a subdued quality to the Prada Spring/Summer 2023 collection. It was ladylike-meets-macabre, a kind of déshabillé spirit that wormed its way into the edges of hemlines, collars, and cuffs. I loved the squashed rosettes that sprouted from dresses, how tails trailed from some looks like a forgotten piece of fabric, and the way a jacket looked pristine from the front and billowed from the back.
It makes sense why the show was called ‘A Touch of Crude’; it was grittier stuff than we’re used to seeing at Prada. It seemed to reject the polished, manipulated perfection of Face App and TikTok filters and pretty trends like Barbiecore. It was real and bore a human imprint. Clothes aren’t the pristine things we see on runways, on two-dimensional phone screens, or hanging like ghosts in stores. Once we wear something, we leave behind marks: toe scuffs, dangling threads, holes punctured by laundry tags. There is a humanistic element to clothes that is always top of mind for Mrs. Prada. Perhaps that’s why the terms 'wear' and 'wear' are homonyms.