Highsnobiety
Prada

If you've been paying attention to Prada, you may have noticed that some of its accessories have let themselves go, so to speak. To butcher a Highlander reference, Prada is apparently undergoing The Thicc-ening.

Prada's newest loafers and handbags have all been rendered in thick nappa leather, giving them the appearance of being inflated. Prada itself is very kindly describing the appearance of these accessories as "padded."

Either way, the resulting shoes and bags are deliciously squishy.

The plush exteriors really do make the new Prada items look especially indulgent, too, an added benefit of the luxe nappa leather they're shaped from.

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Dare to compare Prada's Spring 2023 $1,290 padded nappa loafers against its equally expensive brushed leather sibling: the former just looks so much softer, practically demanding to be touched.

What's the point? Are these nappa treats just Prada demonstrating its knack for making exquisitely opulent staples?

As blogger Tariro Makoni astutely pointed out in late January, Prada's puffification may be a sign of the times.

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As one of the biggest luxury labels on the planet, "Why would Prada invest in puffifying so much of their popular [products]?" Makoni asks, using Prada's product descriptions as a thesis for the puffy accessories representing a juxtaposition of "modernism" and "sophistication."

As the padded Prada bits go semi-viral across social media, they're being positioned as a tangible manifestation of the inflation currently wracking the world economy.

It begs the question: are Prada's dummy thicc shoes and bags indicative of the dummy thicc inflation?

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Certainly, Makoni presents a pretty intriguing extrapolation of meaning, filtering Prada's statement accessories through the lens of current events. Culture shapes fashion shapes culture, and so on.

Prada's team of designers probably weren't intentionally filtering their decisions through the lens of inflation anxieties, to be fair, but you could surmise that there was at least some unconscious osmosis.

We're all anxious about money, right? Let's reflect that in $1,000 shoes and $4,000 bags made of extremely high-end leather.

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After all, Prada's padded nappa collection was likely designed some time in 2022, perhaps around the time that the first major wave of financial woes was crashing into the global economy.

As Psychology Today said, "sad times call for soft textures."

This isn't unique to Prada, of course, as brands like LOEWE and Coach predated Prada's padding fixation their own plush leather offerings, generating mixed responses.

Coach's Pillow Tabby handbag? A certified TikTok smash, with over 12.6m views on its dedicated hashtag. The $7k LOEWE jacket worn by Kendall Jenner? Scrotum-core.

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There's a precedent for squishy fashion.

One of the first handbags created by then-new creative director John Galliano, Margiela's Glam Slam line consists of pouches that could pass as leather pillows, by design.

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Ingenious designers like Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake experimented with inflatable garments long before designer HARRI (formerly Harikrishnan KS) went viral with his own blow-up pants.

Inflatables again were top of mind at the Spring/Summer 2023 runway shows, as they informed Jeremy Scott's seasonal Moschino collection and Diesel placed giant figures worthy of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade around its runway show.

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So, what's the appeal? Well, whether it's padded Prada shoes or inflatable pants, I'd posit that the touchably soft façade crosses the barrier between tangible and visual appeal.

Humans get a shot of endorphins from things that feel soft, so things that look soft — soft fleece, inflatable puffers, plush leather — likely elicit the same response to some degree.

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Science says that jagged edges are inherently displeasing to humans, especially in comparison to smooth curves.

I'm no psychologist but it sounds about right. Our ancient human forebears learned quickly that sharp things (pointy rocks, sharp teeth) equate to pain. What would you rather embrace: Porcupine or puppy? Stiff raw denim jeans or fleecy sweatpants? Craggy cliffside or soft meadow?

With that in mind, maybe the appeal of things like Prada's nappa leather accessories simply comes down to instinct. They subconsciously speak to us: "There's no danger here."

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