In a fashion-forward future, Prada FW22 menswear would be the workwear uniform of choice. In the underbelly of the Fondazione Prada in Milan on January 17, a bare concrete tunnel clad with metal grating and neon lights opens out to a sprawling spotlit showspace lined with a plush, olive green carpet. C/o set designer Rem Koolhaas, sci-fi materiality marries with theatrical atmospheres, and sets the tone for the Hollywood-studded show.
Prada makes room for pragmatism with an offering of "uniforms of reality" in the most luxurious of forms. Riffing on socio-economic hierarchy in the workplace, blue-collar workwear and white-collar sartorial tailoring come together in an exploration of what a menswear wardrobe means today.
Naturally, one of the many dads of Hollywood, Kyle MacLachlan, ushers this exploration to the forefront, opening in a denim-blue nylon set layered atop a printed turtleneck and cloaked in a navy wool overcoat. Tailoring is what follows, sharply articulating shape and form in architectural silhouettes giving emphasis to shoulders and waists, accessorised with tactile gloves and utilitarian boots. Pant hemlines are left slouchy, pooling at the heels of the boots, nodding to a more casual interpretation of workwear, more tactile, notes of informality embedded in even the most elegant looks.
Industrial references to the workplace, to warehouse workers and the age of Amazon are seen in nylon boiler suits in baby blue and pink, while a Hazmat silhouette is riffed on with looser waists and higher necks, all finished with gloves in the same hue. Looks are accessorised with leather briefcases and practical backpacks, nodding to the less and less present idea of the commute – a relic of the past in a pro-WFH era.
This is, of course, not the first time working-class uniforms have been referenced by luxury brands. We've had ID badges at Prada in the past and Firefighter jackets at Calvin Klein, and lest we forget the infamous DHL t-shirt responsible for putting Vetements on the mainstream map. Which inevitably raises the question: when luxury fashion is referencing working class uniforms with price points that are inherently exclusionary to the very groups serving as inspiration, where does it leave the future of fashion?
“The collection celebrates the idea of working — in all different spheres and meanings,” Miuccia Prada explains in the collection notes. “It is a practical, everyday thing. But here, you are formally important. You are not casual. And through these clothes, we emphasise that everything a human being does is important. Every aspect of reality can be elegant and dignified. Elevated, and celebrated.”
Casual is certainly not a descriptive that exists in the world of Prada FW22 menswear, and thankfully so. After years of relentless lockdowns and a pandemic that has forced us all to adopt casual in new ways, FW22 acts as an optimistic note of what could be once again. Complete outfits with the perfect amount of theatre intercepted with reality. One of the driving motivations behind including the 10 globally-renowned Hollywood stars who appear in the show: Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Asa Butterfield, Jeff Goldblum, Damson Idris, Kyle MacLachlan, Tom Mercier, Jaden Michael, Louis Partridge, Ashton Sanders and Filippo Scotti.
Now, more than ever, the world is waking up to the importance of essential workers. A paragon of hard work and dedication in a time where entire systems are on the brink of collapse if not for them, perhaps what Raf Simons and Miuccia are trying to say, is that just as our trends are hinged on workwear silhouettes, our society is hinged on essential workers.
Watch the full Prada Menswear FW2022 show, below.