A Conversation between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, Taken from Prada’s SS21 Showcase
It’s not every day two fashion titans – both as big and influential – as Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons join forces in leading a mega-brand like Prada into the future. Despite not being able to celebrate their first joint collection with a proper fashion show, the pair joined each other after the show (sat 2m apart of course) for a chit-chat, where they took questions fashion fanatics across the globe. Here’s the conversation in full.
Miuccia Prada: Good morning, good evening to everyone. It’s really a strange situation. It’s my first show with Raf Simons and instead of being here with all our friends in the industry or our community, we are alone. But in fact, what is really exciting, we are not alone at all because now we are with so many more people and that’s very new, at least for me. There are two or three things that I want to say that are maybe not questions you can ask. First, is the relationship with technology and machine that is something that I always want to ignore and not give importance to. During lockdown we realised, mainly I realised, how important technology is and how impactful it is for us. In some ways, it is an extension of ourselves. One thing that was very important was the relationship between technology, the machine and the girl. Second, we’ve had the opportunity to really show clothes, because we can’t see the real girl, the real people, the real public, but because we are doing a small film, we hope that you can enjoy and see the clothes better. Which is a very important point for the two of us. And third, I feel like I have to in case no one asks, I want to underline how important sustainability and inclusivity is. It is something that is really becoming very important for companies, for each person. I think each of us should really embrace it and think about it. Once I read somewhere: “Go home and do the home task”, which is what I decided to do. To not only declare it but to try, little by little, to be better. So now I’ve said my little introduction!
Raf Simons: Well, welcome everybody! As Miuccia said, of course we both share these thoughts. We had this idea to have a conversation with everybody who could possibly be interested to have a conversation with us. Obviously not live, so we thought about this system of asking everybody to ask questions if they feel we could answer. So welcome to the talk and let’s shoot!
Audience question: “How long have you wanted to work together?”
MP: Actually, it came out kind of spontaneously. In different interviews in the past, I thought “why not work together one day?” And then all of a sudden one day it happened! So, I don’t know how long really!
RF: I think it never really occurred to me that this could possibly happen, but I have to say I am extremely happy with it. I think we’ve always been very interested in each other’s work and obviously, we met quite a long time ago because Miuccia and Mr Bertelli offered me the position at Jil Sander many years ago, for which I am still thankful for because it was my introduction to womenswear. We kind of always stayed in touch one way or another, and as Miuccia said, it always felt good. So, when the question came about, there was no doubt in that sense. I can answer your question, probably for as long as I’ve known Miuccia and her work. At the same time, well, since we just started!
Audience question: “So, was it much easier to design a collection with another designer? Or was it much harder? (I’m sure it was much of one of them.)
RS: This one is easy to answer. I can only say it’s very natural. To me, it comes very naturally and it’s neither easier nor harder for me. I feel very at ease in the situation.
MP: Exactly! I think it’s easier maybe because we can share more than we used to share. But maybe it takes more energy because you’re not alone and you have to share, so maybe that is more difficult – but not in a difficult way – it’s just more interesting.
RS: Decision making for me is strengthened when I know that Miuccia likes what I like. So even when I’m convinced, my decision is strengthened when I know that she’s convinced, and the other way around.
MP: Yes, for me too! It is very consoling or gives more strength when somebody that you really trust shares the same idea. You feel much stronger.
RS: So, in that sense, it’s easier for me emotionally, and psychologically, and intellectually, but maybe it’s harder because you have more dialogue and that can also impact timing, of course, but all by all I find it easier.
MP: Yes – so far! Then after, I think it will be more interesting because we had little time to work together because of Coronavirus, and you arrived later than we thought. We had to be direct, and work and be instinctive. So, I’m sure we will have time to think and discuss more.
Audience question: “Is there anything authentically “new” anymore or is everything regenerated?”
MP: “New” is the nightmare of every single designer, or at least it was always for me! I think it’s probably not so relevant anymore because now, I don’t know if it were for corona or not, everybody has to express the deep thoughts of a person or a brand. And “new” just for the sake of doing something “new” doesn’t sound like the most important word but, of course, this is what every designer is always trying to do
RS: I think fashion in general always hopes for the “new”, and as Miuccia says as well, every designer wants to be “new”. But I think when you are in it for a long time, let’s say a few decades, it’s important to be able to refresh your own body of work. Me personally, I feel like the pure definition of “new” for me is something we’ve really never seen before. I think it’s a new person coming in, it’s the young, new generation coming in. They should bring “new.”
MP: “New” is something you always think of when you watch a movie, when you read a book. Our present is made from our past, so “new, new, new” is probably not impossible except for incredible revolution, for instance, the mini skirt when there was the women’s liberation. So “new” is somehow impossible, that’s what I think. It’s some sort of course, it’s our worry all the time in general, but I think it’s not too relevant.
RS: It’s a very interesting question but also very difficult because it depends on how you define “new”. How new? Never seen before? Complete revolution? We’ll only know when it’s here.
MP: Fashion is part of creating the change to the people, it’s part of things happening in the world. It’s not that you wake up in the morning and say “let’s do something strange,” the new that makes sense comes from society, one designer can get it better than others, but as you said: what does “new” mean?
Audience question: “Are you doing subtraction or addition?”
RS: Both! That’s a clear, short answer.
MP: Eventually both, and maybe this question is an occasion to talk about how this is, at least for me, it’s a beginning. We have come to develop subtraction, addition, any kind of collaboration. The beauty of it is that we don’t know where we are going.
RS: Right now, this show was definitely about both because we do not want to create, for ourselves, a specific way of working that would lead to either one of these. But we want to have the freedom that we could do a collection that is very much, as Miuccia said and I also relate to, not literally the two worlds sliding together, and it might be the other way around. For us, it’s very important to keep the freedom, and how we perceive our own way of working, and then how we transport our own way of working, and it can be in very different ways.
MP: Absolutely and reacting to what is happening. Fashion is about reacting to reality. There are moments that need something and another moment something else, let’s see!
Audience question: “What do you drink in the morning to start your day?”
RS: Coffee. I love this question!
MP: Me, hot water. My mother told me, first, hot water and then breakfast. That is very healthy.
RS: Coffee, and the rest of the day Coca Zero. That’s pretty bad!
MP: Thank you for the question, for once easy!
Audience question: “What is the “Prada-ness”?”
MP: Other people should say. I’m doing it so I don’t know how to answer.
RS: I guess you now wonder what I think? Well, we do actually talk about this very often, I talk about it very often. I keep talking to the team, to Miuccia about me still being the outsider and looking at the company. I still think about how I see the Prada company, how have I seen the Prada company forever, the brand, and what does it actually mean and more specifically how do I perceive it? In that sense, for many, many years – 20 maybe 25 years – before I started my own brand so more than 25 years, I’ve always seen it as a community that has a very specific attitude, intellect, aesthetic. That’s the one thing you can’t define but you feel it, it exists, it’s there, it’s present. That’s a very important thing for me, it’s also what I like a lot about fashion brands. I think most people in the world know, from previous talks and interviews, that I am very specific, and I like a very small number of brands. That is what a brand needs to have for me to love it, so the “-ness” is what it needs to have.
Audience question: “I’m a 10-year-old girl. I love fashion design, especially Prada and Miu Miu. I want to be a fashion designer and am very passionate. What advice would you recommend to keep me on my path? Thank you.”
MP: This is my moment to say “Study, Study, study!”, learn, watch movies, watch art, read literature, and know that a piece of clothing serves the purpose of making you live better, it’s for you and it’s for your life. It’s not an abstract job, the result of my job is that people with my clothes feel a bit better, they can live a bit better, so it has to be useful. And it helps to find your personality even if you want to change, one day you want to be somebody, the next you want to be somebody else, it depends on the occasion. So really think about it, that is a really important tool in your life.
Audience question: “Both Prada and Raf Simons have always been interested in the idea of uniforms: True and metaphorical ones. What are your personal uniforms that you wear and what would you say is the uniform of “new” Prada?”
RS: I am very happy with this question! Actually, we didn’t talk about it yet, but I think the thing I’ve talked most about with Miuccia throughout all these months was uniforms. Not uniforms as we literally perceive it when we hear the word, not army uniforms, police uniforms or something, but effectively true, metaphorical ones. I think it’s almost not necessary to talk about it because you’ve just seen the show when the whole first half was about that. I think your question is more about your personal uniform and the one from the new Prada you’ve just seen. I talked a lot about it with Miuccia and how the way Miuccia dresses is a kind of uniform. That was an instant, direct inspiration for me for the show. My personal uniform is usually quite simple. Black pants – Prada – not because I work here, but for ten years, and an untucked shirt, I think that’s always the same. Then I have shoes I like for one or two years then suddenly I switch to something completely different. I think what we want to say about uniforms is it’s interesting that you can find something you know you feel good in and you know you express what you want to express without it being too much of a specific fashion item in whatever moment in time. A uniform needs to express something that is more timeless, to me, than something that is season-specific. It’s a base almost.
MP: I personally go from one uniform to another. Now, my last love is a white, cotton, pleated skirt and a blue sweater. I don’t know how long it will go on for, but at some point, I’ll go onto another. I like the idea of uniforms.
RS: It’s very personal, I think. A uniform, I see it as us designers being able to offer a base. For one person the Prada t-shirt with the little triangle on the back is their uniform, in either black or white. I’m very much the same, my pants or my shirts are always neutral but then I can do whatever I want on the top that might be more extreme, especially coats. Give me as many coats as possible! Still, that’s a uniform. I would never go out and have a very strange or high fashion pant, with other very high fashion items on top. The idea of uniforms is based on the idea of a basic shape almost.
MP: For me, it’s something that allows you to think and doesn’t distract. You have to feel well so you are able to think.
Audience question: “Do you think your interpretation of the future, of what is to come in fashion, is a mere interpretation by you as individuals, or are they ideas caught from a collective subconscious?”
RS: I prefer that they always come from a collective subconscious. It’s a very personal thing. I like to not only think that it is something that I only feel then it would feel not right to me because I hope that what I do has enough impact for other people to agree with it, to join it, to interact with it. It’s automatically something that is collective. The nature of us working together proves that now. It starts with yourself, of course, but it can quickly move to your friends, to your team, but it’s very much towards you, towards the audience. This collective is very important to me.
MP: I always think a designer is good if their ideas, their clothes can connect to other people. So, the more they are connecting with reality and other people the more your job makes sense. For me, I always want to do something that is meaningful for people. You have to be connected to people from what you read, from what you learn, what you discuss so the more you are connected with the world the more interesting your job is.
RS: It’s important for me, that it is right in the moment in time. I had a discussion a long time ago with a designer and said that it’s important that you do it in the moment that it’s relevant. The aesthetic or whatever only makes sense in the moment.
MP: Different moments say different things. We can see how things we have done are answering the questions of today.
Photographs courtesy of Prada.