Such is the excitement surrounding a Prada fashion show that spectators can’t help but make assumptions as soon as the invitation lands. Let’s see, a beige linen card coated in plastic. Not much to conclude from that. The next clue: the venue. This evening, Mrs. Prada’s space on Via Fogazzaro was decked out in rust-coloured deep pile carpet, while the centre of the room was filled with peaked dunes of lavender sand, tons of the stuff, sparkling under the spotlights – it filled the air with a sweet perfume and looked like it would zing on the tongue like sherbet, should one wish to try it.
These thoughts, and others, were racing through the mind until 42 minutes later when the wait was finally over. Out came Gemma Ward (after a six-year hiatus from the industry) dressed in a narrowly cut double-breasted black coat with Seventies collar and contrast lines of basic running stitch outlining the seams. The idea of craftsmanship here was prevalent. Edges on everything were left to fray, jagged hemlines on sheer toile-like skirts appeared as though they had been hacked off backstage, minutes before exiting. It all communicated an element of ownership, of wear and tear.
Her choice of vintage-style fabrics were opulent and seemed more suited to upholstering than dressmaking; heavy damasks, rich flocking and brocades – which were especially made for this collection (Mrs. Prada keen to do her part to keep the tradition and skill alive) – were all the sort of materials more commonly used for curtains or to renew a sofa. Here, they were cut up and mixed and matched together, or used as trims – off-cuts if you like – spliced into leather A-line skirts. Chinoiserie even got a look – in via oriental silk shirts layered under mustard ribbed knitted vests.
The soundtrack was Kiss Me, borrowed from The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, a film by Marie Losier that centres on the life and work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and his wife and collaborator Lady Jaye, it follows the sexual transformations they underwent during their Pandrogyne project, merging into one being. It was a provocative and powerful choice. Was Mrs. Prada merging the two worlds of the past and the future? The old with the new? It doesn’t really matter, these clothes were so spine-tingling good – and the accessories, too; clog boots and sublime bowling bags crafted from black crocodile with tan leather accents – she would be hard pushed to have found a record that didn’t set it all off with such emotional intensity.