Prada F/W 2016
Prada F/W 2016

Prada is one of the most highly considered fashion brands in the world. With a devout following that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, people who have no interest in fashion at all know Prada. At times, one might question whether this is a fashion brand or a religion, and in some ways, there are some similarities. Its followers are devout and at times even evangelistic. There is a very tightly held calendar between when fashions appear on the runway and finally make it to stores. There is even a sense of liturgy, a kind of fashionista mass that takes place at each fashion show. Most seasons, one may need to call upon the divine interpretation of an intermediary, a Prada priest if you will, to interpret the meaning of a collection.

Every Prada collection is unique, a time capsule of its own that dates each season before it ever hits store shelves. There’s no questioning whether a piece was from last season or the season before. If one is a disciple, one knows when Miuccia used color blocking and when she used prints and when she resorted to peplum. We show up to Prada’s fashion week presentations prepared to need to think. What was her influence? Where was she going?

When today’s collection hit the runway, it was on a set constructed to look like a post-WWII agora, painted red, wood benches that might seem to have no order (though, they actually did), a PJHarvey soundtrack given a dreamy, trance-like mix. Photographer Nick Knight complained the whole thing was too dark, didn’t click, was void of a sense of life, but perhaps Nick wasn’t drinking the Prada grape juice so much this season. If anything, this is a collection that exists in that narrow gap of consciousness between being awake and being asleep, where one is not entirely sure what is real.

What is definitely real is a marine theme, complete with sailor hats and pea coats. Think mid-1940s, after the war, probably Paris though that was never actually expressed. The pieces are there, but they’re not in the right place. Lace-up waist cinchers are worn on the outside of dresses and coats. Detachable white collars are askew with one side undone. For many of the pieces, there is a large, bulky necklace that resembled an oversized charm bracelet. Severely oversized. There are no pants, only leggings.

Quilted jacquards, embroidered velvet, incredibly detailed brocades, coat sleeves made of fur, floral prints and embroidery, and large blue capes like those worn by military nurses came down the runway one after the other, leaving us somehow disconnected from a sense of place and time. A large number of purses were worn over the over the opposite shoulder, the straps crossing the chest, is a pseudo-military illusion. Some shoes laced straight up the leg while others were big and clunky. There’s no slipping through the house quietly in either.

Often, we are left to speculate just how much will be watered down in commercial versions of the clothes, but for this collection one can’t expect much change. While there is no shop-the-runway feature from Prada, the collection is already 90 percent commercial. The faithful will be proud. The faithful will be happy. The faithful will be trying to figure out how to keep that sailor’s hat on their head in a stiff wind (bobby pins, girls). There’s no deterring the faithful and this could be a collection that helps convert the cynical doubter. Don’t forget to leave your offering at the door on your way out.

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