Dancing with myself... in Prada

On the Prada Menswear FW21 runway show

Techno is playing and a young man starts dancing. Jerking his limbs, clad in a bizarre knitted bodystocking in a 70s-throwback print, to the beats of Richie Hawtin. This is not what he’s meant to be doing. He’s at work, a runway model for Prada, only this time there is no runway, no crowd of fashion editors, no chorus of clicks from the photographers’ pit. And so he starts dancing. Other boys join in, throwing their bodies and stomping platformed feet onto shag-piled rugs and green marble floors. Each figure in an adjacent room, dancing in isolation but connected by music and the compulsion to throw one’s head to repetitive beats. They look awkward, lonely; long gangly limbs flailing. Teenage boys cut off from the locales and socialities they’d normally care to frequent, turning the speakers up in their suburban bedroom – or at least Prada’s elevated version of it.

This moment reportedly happened by accident: the models of Prada’s show started dancing spontaneously and the designers, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada, decided there was something special about it, so wrote it into the runway show – presented here as an 11-minute video on YouTube. They’re lucky it happened. It’s the moment that brought Prada’s FW21 collection – their first menswear collaboration – to life.

Raf Simons’s signature oversized knits and bombers strike the dominant mood here, but find good company in Miuccia Prada’s signature pushed-up sleeves, ‘ugly chic’ prints and strong collars. There are huge coats to hide in, petroleum-hued shoes to stomp in, knitted bodystockings to wiggle snake-hips in. A suite of bomber jackets in bottle green, hot pink and electric purple leather might be my collection highlight, worn in combination with contrasting acid-tone gloves with mysterious mini zip-up pouches. This look, along with Symone’s boxing gear Drag Race look from a week or so back, has cemented the ‘oversize leather glove’ in my mind as the fashion item du jour.

In the post-show Q&A (with questions refreshingly sourced from fashion students around the world), Miuccia explains that designers are interested in the lives of people, of which clothes are only a small part – the environment they’re situated in is more important. The set for this show was designed by Prada’s longtime collaborator Rem Koolhaas of OMA (see also: the Prada Foundation in Milan) and forms a vivid backdrop to the show. Rooms seem to unfold onto each other in an endless loop; purple fur walls and blue fur carpets form an alarming, trippy sequence – a 2CB-soaked version of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. Such an architectural configuration gives an essential context to the clothes: “Architecture helped us to describe or to tell the feelings and ideas we had,” Miuccia explains. She describes the set as “An abstract space full of feelings, sensibilities, warmth, sensuality and tough [sic].”

According to the press release, the collection “takes as its basis an intimate and personal wish for contact”. The designers are careful never to mention the C-word (you know… the new one), instead referring vaguely to “what’s going on right now”. I’m glad not to see any direct references to the virus – I hope that by the time Fall/Winter 2021 rolls around, we’ll be less behest to R-rates, masks and tiered systems. But alongside the collection’s yearning texture and tactility (most definitely the by-product of being sequestered away in our sanitised bubbles), the looping, hallucinogenic, hyperreal monotony of the show’s structure is a clever expression of the reality many of us have experienced (at least, for those of us lucky enough not to be on the front-line).

Ok, granted, my shared and rented North London flat does not have purple fur walls, but I can relate to the sense of unreality they create. There are points in this pandemic where reality feels as though it’s in a feedback loop: a particularly mundane Tik-Tok, replaying day after day. The closest you can get to breaking this monotony, to the rush once offered by losing yourself in a club, to meeting friends for drinks in a crowded pub, is to dance alone to techno in a carpeted room – with or without a knitted bodystocking.

- Rosa xo

Watch the Prada Menswear FW21 show (and Q&A) on YouTube here.