The annual Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala brings many things to New York — Kardashians, attention, a windfall to florists and makeup artists the city over — but this year it also brought something else: the Prada Cruise 2019 show.
It was only last year that Miuccia Prada joined the relatively small group of brands (Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci) that hold between-season runway extravaganzas in far-flung cities of their choice. But for her sophomore outing, Mrs. Prada decided to take advantage of the presence of pretty much everyone she could ever want in her audience pretty much all needing to be in the same place at the same time — plus the fact that she had to be there herself anyway to host a table at the gala — to unveil her collection in New York.
Smart, right? It was like a pre-party for the party. A mini-gala in Prada mode. A Pradala.
But that’s kind of her thing (the smarts). If Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior has positioned herself as the feminist’s creative director, Mrs. Prada has always been the thinking woman’s designer — treated backstage like some sort of political philosopher queen of the industry, mobs of journalists hanging on her every musing, esteemed guests whispering hosannas in her ear.
So this time ’round she invited everyone into the equivalent of her New York home: the cavernous old piano factory in the Far West 50s that serves as Prada HQ, where one floor had been turned into a concrete catwalk designed by the architecture firm Herzog and De Meuron, whichredesigned the buildingwhen Prada bought it.
The windows were lined with sheets of translucent red and blue acrylic, transforming the city below into a piece of Pop Art, and the runway was lined with a mash-up of starry names, including the film director Ava DuVernay; the author Zadie Smith; the actresses Sarah Paulson and Chloë Sevigny; the designers Raf Simons and Marc Jacobs;Jessica Morgan, director of the Dia Art Foundation; and Sheena Wagstaff of the Met’s new Modern and contemporary art department. Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, wearing matching dressesin different colors, said it was only the second fashion show they had ever attended that wasn’t their own(the first was Chanel).
The ability to mix unexpected ingredients into a compelling whole is something of a Prada signature, and it was as true for the collection as it was for the audience: long, narrow silk chiffon skirts were belted at the hips under plain black T-shirt sweaters; polo shirts paired with ruffled leather miniskirts or transformed into empire-waist gowns; brocade trouser suits with knit ’70s tees. And all of it was jiggered up with bejeweled thigh-highs, Bakelite logo necklaces, clunky square-heeled loafers, and enormous brocadeushanka hats — a little bit geeky, a little bit athleisure, a little bit soignée; altogether cool. In other words, classic Prada with a contemporary edge.
“It’s like my fantasy of reality,” Mrs. Prada said afterward, which sums it up pretty well.
There was as much Prada being modeled by the guests as by the actual models, part of the point of the Cruise shindigs, suggesting that the clothes are not as hard to wear as they sometimes initially appear. The actresses Tracee Ellis Ross and Lily Collins were in neon traffic-cone dresses from the February fall collection, the former a hot pink strapless synthetic plastic bubble; the latter a spangled Watteau tea dress under a highlighter orange bustier. “When my mother saw it, she said, ‘At least no car will miss you when you are crossing the street,’” Ms. Collins had said to a friend in the elevator.
Mrs. Prada sat on a bench chatting with guests while cocktails wereserved. “I love the hats!” said the actor Ansel Elgort, kneeling before her.
The hats, Mrs. Prada said, were inspired by a trip to Russia that one of her sons — a philosopher/racecar driver — had taken. It was suggested that this was a pretty pointed choice of headgear to pick for a show in New York when the whole issue of Russia, and Russian influence on the last American presidential election, had been much in the news. Had Mrs. Prada, who famously took part in political demonstrations while wearing Yves Saint Laurent, thought about that?
Mrs. Prada laughed and waved her hand in dismissal. Then she stood, and was swallowed up by the chattering mob.
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