The Expo 2015 exhibition will be opening in Milan in a few months' time (May 1st) and it is somehow strange that no apparent connection was made with this event on the Milanese menswear runways. A while back it was announced that Armani will be the Special Ambassador of the event, hosting on the night before the official opening a giant runway show celebrating the start of the exhibition as well as the 40th anniversary of his fashion house, but no further news linking fashion and the Expo arrived since then.
Yet there was maybe a collection in Milan that hinted at the Expo - Prada's. Presented as usual together with the womenswear Pre-Fall 2015 collection, the A/W 2015-16 menswear designs actually looked extremely normal and almost banal.
The collections were showcased in a sinister space (fake veiny marble floors, low metal ceilings, aluminum tunnels...) that evoked industrial alienation.
The starting point for both the collections was a synthetic nylon-like shiny fabric that called to mind Prada's iconic bags. Men's looks included light coats and tailored double-breasted suits characterised by conservative and slender silhouettes.
There were no epaulets and military decorations around, but the tailored precision was militaresque and a bit boring. There was an attempt at hinting at sexy moods in the black dresses with grosgrain panels and bows/ribbons on the shoulders (instead of epaulets...), while Milan as a business centre was referenced via briefcase-like bags.
Miuccia's main idea was tackling gender through severe and elegant uniforms, but while in other cases (thinks about J.W. Anderson's designs or Gucci's A/W 15-16 menswear collection, the first after Frida Giannini's departure...), we have seen a total mix up of the gender semantics and codes, here there was still a neat division between men and women and conservative trousers/skirts that looked borrowed from school uniforms, with the occasional shirtdress for a man (albeit belted and matched with tailored trousers and coats).
The fact that most fabrics were the same, though, and that there was an omogenisation of colours with black, steel grey and dark blue prevailing (plus occasional camel shades thrown in for men's and one checked coat in bright tones of red and blue for women's), maybe hinted at something else.
One reason for this futuristically industrial alienating atmosphere may be the fact that Prada is suffering from fashion fatigue. The subject of tax investigations, the company has been recently busy moving back Prada Holding (controlling the Prada label as well as holdings belonging to Miuccia Prada's husband, Patrizio Bertelli, Pa Be 1 and Bellatrix) from Luxembourg to Italy.
In the meantime, the Fondazione Prada is scheduled to open in May its expanded headquarters integrating seven former industrial structures from the early 20th century with three new buildings designed by Rem Koolhaas's architecture firm OMA and incorporating a cinema, a library, a temporary exhibitions gallery, an auditorium, and a nine-story tower that will feature works from the foundation's contemporary art collection.
So while one of the reasons for a basic collection may be fashion fatigue mixed with the renovation of an industrial complex, another may actually be the Expo. The theme of uniforming genders could indeed be pointing towards the creation of uniforms.
Prada wouldn't be new to this experience since the company already provided the uniforms for the Italian Pavilion staff at the Shanghai Expo 2010. As some may remember they revolved around steel grey and fuchsia and looked more casual than elegant (View this photo). This collection would instead provide simple yet more striking uniforms (and also comes in muted and traditionally classic Armani shades...a way to compete with King Giorgio?).
One of the requirements to submit proposals for the Italian Pavilion uniforms at the Expo 2015 is actually to have a legal HQ in Italy and Prada failed to abide to this regulation until recently. Creating the uniforms for global events such as the World's Fair is obviously a rewarding adventure from both the financial and commercial perspectives.
Since the legendary "Great Exhibition", the first World Expo that took place in London’s Hyde Park in 1851, universal expositions have given the chance to different countries to present their art, culture and design and explore at the same time new technological developments. Fashion was indirectly presented at the various exhibitions through the staff's uniforms. Created by prominent fashion houses and designers, the uniforms often incorporated elements that recalled the architectures and colours of the pavilions where the staff worked, while also referencing current trends. At the Montreal Expo 1967, for example, the Mary Quant-inspired mini-dresses of the UK stewardesses caused a fashion chaos influencing a raise in the hems of the other girls' uniforms.
So is Prada trying to spark a "uniform rivalry" with Armani for the Expo 2015? We'll see in the next few weeks/months and we'll also see if the main theme of the World's Fair, "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", will appear on the womenswear fashion runways. There was no reference to it in the menswear shows, though at Prada's there were shiny brown soles that looked like a thick chocolate candy bar à la Toblerone.
To get into the food and fashion mood, I'm going to leave you with the elegant Issey Miyake's Pleats Please campaign by Taku Satoh Design Office. In these 2009 posters Taku Satoh recreated the texture of sushi using Miyake's pleated garments, while, in 2012, the Japanese graphic designer came up with more food inspired images to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Issey Miyake's Pleats Please line. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to leave behind uniforms, gender issues and fashion and have a bit more fun just thinking about scrumptilicious food.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos