Commentary

Raf Simons, Miuccia Prada To Co-Create With Equal Say At Prada

In an announcement that electrified the fashion world on the last day of Milan Fashion Week, Prada yesterday named  Belgian designer Raf Simons as Miuccia Prada’s co-creative director, “with equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making,” starting April 2.

“Although limited-edition collaborations have become a trend in fashion, this takes the idea to an entirely different level, especially in an industry where designers are not known for sharing the spotlight and sole aesthetic authorship is traditionally fetishized,” writes  Vanessa Friedman for The New York Times.

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“Mr. Simons, 52, who most recently was chief creative officer of Calvin Klein but left that post in December 2018, and Mrs. Prada said they had been in discussions for more than a year about the possibility of working together. Mrs. Prada, 71, denied that the decision was made as preparation for her eventual retirement,” Friedman continues.

“Simons was born in the town of Neerpelt in rural Belgium, ‘a village between cows and sheep' as he once told Vogue. His mother was a cleaning lady, his father a night watchman in the Belgian army, but his education in taste began with his inspiring aunts who lived in flat-roofed villas with Verner Panton and Eero Saarinen furniture that gave their nephew a lifelong passion for mid-century aesthetics: it’s one that Miuccia Prada shares,” writes Hamish Bowles for Vogue.

“Prada was born to a bourgeois Milanese family -- her father’s company made lawn mowers for putting greens, her quietly elegant mother inherited the celebrated luxury leather goods company founded by her own father, Mario Prada, in 1913 in Milan’s soaring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade…. Prada rebelled against her upbringing, but on her own terms. She did a doctorate in political science, and spent five years studying mime,” Bowles continues.

“Prada joined her family's namesake label in 1978, premiered her first ready-to-wear collection in 1989, and subsequently launched Miu Miu in 1992. She is best known for her seamless clash of eccentricity with elegance. The Belgian designer previously held creative director stints at Jil Sander, Christian Dior, and Calvin Klein, all of which he left amicably to pursue further projects,” Justine Carreon writes  for Elle.

“The first collection co-designed by Prada and Simons, spring-summer 2021, will debut in Milan in September,” Joe Price writes  for Complex.

“There's more strength when two creatives believe in it than when one believes in it. If we both believe in it, we're going to do it,” Simons said at a press conference at Prada headquarters in Milan, Price reports.

“Prada returned to growth in 2018 after several years of slumping sales, but the recovery has been facing fresh challenges in recent months in the form of political protests in Hong Kong, a key luxury-shopping hub, and in the coronavirus outbreak that has put the brakes on spending by key Chinese clients. Chinese shoppers make up more than one-third of luxury spending and two-thirds of the industry’s growth,” write  Robert Williams  and Daniele Lepido for Bloomberg.

“The move comes as the fashion industry faces challenges, including concern about its role in climate change and accusations that luxury brands are out of touch with customers and society at large,” Victoria Cavaliere points out  for CNN.

“Prada this month reached an agreement  with New York City to promote greater diversity and cultural sensitivity within the company following a 2018 scandal in which it was accused of selling a line of blackface trinkets. The company tapped film director Ava DuVernay and installation artist Theaster Gates to sit on its new diversity and inclusion advisory council,” she continues. 

“The company has taken steps to address its environmental footprint. Last year it unveiled new bag silhouettes made from a regenerated nylon material known as ECONYL,” Cavaliere adds.

“When you talk to both Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, together or apart (these days, presumably, it’ll be much more of the former), you are struck by their similarities, their shared love of culture and art, and their interest in placing fashion in a similar context -- that is, using fashion as a means of expressing emotion, feeling, and indeed intellect. Intellectual is a label affixed to both of them, although Miuccia Prada once told me that ‘it’s a cliché -- so the moment they say that, I want to be the stupid one! Because I always go for the opposite,’” Alexander Fury writes  for AnOther.

“‘It is maybe the first time that two designers who are very successful individually have decided to work together,’ said [Miuccia’ husband, Prada CEO] Patrizio Bertelli -- and it's tough to think of a comparable example in the annals of fashion, even with collaboration galore. ‘It is extremely exciting,’ said Miuccia Prada. ‘I cannot wait,’ said Raf Simons. Neither can we,” Fury concludes.

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