The closing Sunday at Milan Fashion Week was marred by fear as the Lombardy region came to terms with Europe's biggest outbreak of the coronavirus yet. On another year, the news of Raf Simons' long-anticipated move to Prada — where he will serve as co-creative director with Miuccia Prada — would certainly have been the biggest story of the day.
Rumors about a possible Simons move to the legendary Italian house have been circulating for a while, and it seems obvious as to why the partnership is being read as the perfect fashion alignment. Both designers are politically-minded, ardent art lovers, and whereas Simons has the cultural cache of underground and outsider street cred, Prada has garnered the respect and reverence of those already entrenched in the fashion world.
Below we've spoken to a selection of fashion experts to gauge the general "Prafda" consensus.
"Like probably everybody else, I had hoped that the rumor would prove to be true. Fashion is still one of the last disciplines that cherishes the myth of a single genius; Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons have officially modernized the idea of collaboration for deep creation in fashion. Both designers make fashion exciting to engage with — they’re THE professional power couple! I am excited to watch it unfold. Of course, it also offers Prada a clear succession route for an eventual post-Miuccia world."
"The news about Raf Simons joining Prada, while unsurprising, is still unusual for a few reasons: the equal creative control, the open-ended contractual nature, and two "name" designers coming together, and not in succession. It's appropriate [...] for Prada, whose artistically intrepid operations have always placed them outside convention.
I'm always perplexed by industry comparisons between Prada and other big luxury brands that fail to acknowledge that Prada exists so squarely inside its own lane. Creatively, Simons' partnership with Prada makes more sense to me than his Calvin Klein appointment did; I've always interpreted his aesthetic sensibility to be more consonant with the world of Prada than any other brand. Both designers operate within a certain strictness of vision, so my biggest curiosity is whether or not Simons will be able to inject any electricity into the brand image, despite the fact that they both already work with the same creative team much of the time (Willy Vanderperre and Olivier Rizzo). Some may find this partnership a natural choice, but it's also a safe one: few (if any) designers would be equipped to carry on the legacy of Prada into the future besides Raf. The hope is of course that Miuccia is in good health, that Prada's brand integrity remains, and a new partnership breeds new spontaneity of concepts that none of us will see coming."
"Raf Simons working side-by-side with Miuccia Prada is a bit of an Avengers moment for a certain type of fashion fan. It also closes a loop of mutual appreciation between the two, who in previous conversations have expressed a desire to work together in an official capacity. But I also think it signifies how that very streetwear attitude of simply wanting to create cool things with your friends and people whose work you admire has even permeated fashion's highest echelons."
- Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety editorial director
"I'm gagged. Bury me in it."
- Emma Hope Allwood, head of fashion at DAZED
"Without context, hearing Raf Simons or Miuccia Prada working as a "co-creative director" is a little bizarre. This title, so uncommon in the fashion industry, raises questions regarding each individual's creative strength stifling one another's. I really believe there is nothing to fear in this sense (but that is not to say it feels overly safe, either). The overlap from contemporary art and architecture influenced fashion design to retro-futuristic fabrication and patterning proves an effortless match where each designer will, in my eyes, only empower one another. Besides all of the fashion analysis excretion, it just works. How pure is it that MP, at age 70, wants it to be clear that this is not a preemptive plan for retirement?
Since we can't ignore the business and consumerist side of fashion: Prada, owned by its self-titled Prada Group and contacting RS immediately following his departure at CK, is making about as genuine of a move [as] a colossal luxury goods retailer can. If I'm not mistaken, RS had connections with the Prada family during his tenure at Jil Sander (maybe my favorite guest-designer stint for RS), whose DNA shares much with both RS and MP, if only a bit more subdued. What differs from his previous ventures at other houses, especially his recent work at CK, is that the existing Prada consumer is absolutely ready for this collaborative effort. With this and Prada Group in mind, I don't think the usual and unfortunate pressures of sales, growth, etc. will be weighing on the duo's shoulders. I hate that this is so important, but it is. On the other side of the glamor-fueled industry, I don't think that RS and MP's unignorable stardom will prevent them from doing exactly what they want to do as they both move with a sense of authenticity."
"Could you imagine a better antidote to the Italian fashion scene than Raf Simons' arrival at Prada? Actually, apart from some exceptional case histories like Bottega Veneta or Gucci, it's undoubted that Milano is suffering a lack of incisive creativity and a strong long-term view, compared to other creative realities.
Prada has always been the inviolate sanctuary of Italian fashion, the religious place where bourgeoise elegance reached unusual edges of modernity, with Miuccia putting her personal stamp on the "ugly chic" aesthetic that she successfully built up since she joined the family business. Raf Simons, for his part, is undoubtedly one of the last poets of fashion, the pioneer of a sharp aesthetic that has revolutionized menswear since his beginning in the mid-’90s and gave proof of impeccable executions even with womenswear during his reigns at Jil Sander, Dior, and Calvin Klein.
We are talking about two completely different worlds, but even if they are starting from different backgrounds, Simons and Prada have the same extraordinary idiosyncratic approach to fashion's creative processes. On the other hand, opposites always seek, complement, and love each other, compensating what they don't have individually for the sake of mutual curiosity: it will be interesting how all this will mix snobbish Milanese elegance with youth culture critical issues."
- Simone Cotellessa, @ecce____homo
"I have to say, this is exciting news. I think Raf’s overall vision precisely fits Prada’s current design direction, and while I don’t know for sure if this is a rolling exit for Miuccia, I couldn’t imagine a more fitting successor to the house among currently established designers. I’m excited to see what they cook up as co-creative directors, especially in the realm of accessories and outerwear."
- Jordan Page, @veryadvanced
"Raf Simons is becoming a designer that brands hire to regain relevancy, because he is both a fashion darling and popular with the young consumer. But, as seen from Dior and Calvin Klein especially, it does not mean that profits [will] follow. It seems that Prada, which has been struggling financially in the past few years, is betting on Raf bringing them a certain cache of cool, and a new customer. I don't see another reason for them to hire him. It is a curious new development for one critically acclaimed, conceptual designer to hire another one. Usually, it's the staid luxury houses that seek a hot designer to rejuvenate the brand, but there, the case is clear — they are bringing on someone with a vision. Here, we have two designers who have strong vision. My guess is that this arrangement won't last, simply because we are talking about two chefs in the same kitchen. And when has that ever worked?
I feel that the smarter move would've been to hire Raf to design Prada menswear. We forget that Raf is not a dressmaker. He has no formal fashion design training. And while I think you can still create a strong vision in menswear, like Raf did, without proper design training, it's much harder to do that with womenswear, even if you have an excellent design team behind you."
- Eugene Rabkin, editor of StyleZeitgeist