Milan Fashion Week: Prada deconstructs luxe evening wear

MILAN (AP) — Milan Fashion Week opened its third day of preview shows for next spring and summer against the backdrop of thousands of young environmental protesters calling out the industry Friday for its wasteful and polluting ways.

The question hanging over fashion week is whether after 19 months, the coronavirus pandemic has led to any real changes in a system that has revolved around four ready-to-wear seasons a year, plus cruise and couture. Yes, shows are socially distanced, and fewer editors are admitted than ever. But with companies racing to restore sales to pre-pandemic levels, one is left to wonder: are deeper changes really afoot?

Signs at the climate march through the heart of Milan urged “Dress the change,’’ a slogan aimed at the second-most polluting industry after energy. “Everyone wanna be hot, but Earth isn’t one of them,’’ read another sign.

Some highlights from Friday’s shows:


Prada returned to the live runway for the first time since February 2020, when the creative partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons was announced and just as Italy detected the first locally transmitted cases of the new coronavirus.

Fans thronged the sidewalk outside the Fondazione Prada showroom and contemporary art exhibition space to hail VIPS and influencers alike, as old fashion rituals resumed.

Inside, masked editors vetted with a health pass sat at a social distance that left plenty of room to breathe. Another show was staged simultaneously in Shanghai, with images of the darkened skyline broadcast in the Milan showroom.

The collection, the third of the Prada-Simons era, was a deconstruction of traditional evening wear — trains, corsets and evening gowns — as a study in sensuality and in revealing the female form, the designers said in show notes.

Simons bemoaned the “irreality” of an evening gown “however beautiful,” and it is certainly the case that many gowns have spent the pandemic hanging, unheralded, in closets.

“These clothes can become complicated: evening dresses, historical costume. We want to make it uncomplicated, easy, that feels modern,” Simons said.

Mini-skirts in couture silk trailed long sashes, sometimes left floating behind. More formally, skirts sported full tuxedo tails. They were worn with sweaters, distressed leather bomber jackets and sleeveless blouses with black-and-white prints that laced up for a punk feel.

Dresses were cinched at the waist and left open at the back in a way that suggested the Prada V logo, while the skirt had a deep inverse-V slit. Leather straps on bare biceps finished the look.

Knitwear was soft, with breastplate or corset detailing, finished with the same leather bicep straps. Mini-knit tunics were cinched at the waist and worn over matching short-shorts

The color palette ranged from navy and black to cotton candy pink and canary yellow. Magenta accented acid green, which in turn complemented girlish pink. Shoes had a low, cantilevered heel, giving the sensation of suspension.

For Prada, it is a mistake to discuss the show in terms of a “return to normal.”

“We have learned that we in fashion engage with a much wider world,’’ Prada said in the show notes. “After all that has happened, how can you just go back?”