At Prada, it’s with the old

MILAN – Pretty much the last “ism” that no one makes a fuss about is that concerning age. Fashion, in particular, has been a chronic offender, fetishizing millennials and stamping their feet waiting for oldies to pack up and settle into a home.

It is common knowledge that baby boomers spend more than consumers of any other age group. It’s just not fashionable to say it in public. Yet all of that changes, and for reasons that might be market-driven, but as arbitrary as most other modes.

Edward Enninful, the British editor of Vogue whose tenure at the magazine has established him as a true cultural booster, put an exclamation on a statement made in the industry when he introduced Kristen McMenamy, 57, the model 1990s white on the January cover.

Alessandro Michele at Gucci, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe and Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent have also shown a strong taste for vintage humans, building campaigns around not only Ms. McMenamy (Gucci), but also 76-year-old novelist Susanna Moore ( Loewe) and 65-year-old Jerry Hall, who first made a splash in the prehistoric 1970s and is starring in an upcoming Saint Laurent campaign.

So it was a logical and fitting fix for Miuccia Prada, 72, and Raf Simons, 54, to open their menswear show with actor Kyle MacLachlan, who at 62 is old enough to collect payments Social Security, and closing it with Jeff Goldblum, who at 69 has almost reached the plateau at which Hollywood gives stars their lifetime achievement award.

The thing is, as people live longer, there’s no good reason left for fashion to feed them. Strip away the inevitable hambone aspects of these actors’ appearances (Mr. MacLachlan spoke to my colleague Anna Kambhampaty about getting in character for her turn on the runway: Method catwalk) and there was something admirable about the authority they brought to clothes.

Dressed in a dark mohair overcoat with a fur hem and cuff, over what one observer called “big break” trousers and chisel-toed shoes, Mr. Goldblum conjured up images, possibly be taken from movies, important men making “entrances” and “appearances” and projecting a kind of authority that is no longer automatically inherent in being anatomically male.

Clothing still has the power to perform this magic. Of course, to use RuPaul’s mantra, we’re all born naked and the rest is drag. Yet owning the performance is, of course, a key part of both acting and the everyday public roles we play. Ms Prada suggested in her show notes that the aim now was to produce clothes that made people – and not axiomatically men, although all the models were men – feel important.

It was a roundabout way of addressing the confusion so many people are feeling at this point in a resurgent and seemingly endless pandemic. Not only have we been substantially deprived of each other’s company for the past two years, but we have missed the theater of everyday life. What does it mean to dress for the occasion when there is no occasion?

Maybe that means donning one of the flight suits (or boiler suits) that were obviously Mr. Simons’ contribution to the collaborative collection, some split into two pieces, but the bulkiest and most enveloping and at in some ways as infantilizing as last year’s knits. underpants.

Mr. Simons has been vampirizing youth culture for so long that it sometimes seems like the march of time has escaped him. Stretching things out a bit, one might assume that his ultimate goal as a designer is to disrupt certain hierarchical ways of conveying power in the way we dress. And seen in this light, her work seems to balance what may seem like Ms. Prada’s more conservative outlook.

But the reward you get for following the spirit and career of Ms. Prada over the decades is watching her craft a series of progressive mini-subversions. Here, they’ve taken the form of oversized leather trench coats, heavy bomber jackets, structured (and Balenciaga-inspired bald) field jackets, and fur-trimmed “Grand Hotel” overcoats the wearer can’t resist to feel, as she said in her notes. , “significant.”

Ms. Prada uses design to make the case for a conservative structure at a time when the center refuses to hold and so much about our daily existences seems disheveled. Just when you think the designer might have ceded control — to Mr. Simons, to the tyranny of TikTok, to the kids — she subtly takes it back and reminds you that the person who’s really in charge here is an adult. .

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