At the culmination of the Prada show on Thursday, the audience bore witness to a profoundly symbolic moment, one whose true significance will resonate over time. Fabio Zambernardi, a steadfast collaborator by Miuccia Prada’s side for nearly three decades, made a remarkable entrance from stage left. This marked his first public acknowledgment alongside Miuccia, as well as her co-designer Raf Simons. As we beheld this moment, it was impossible not to speculate that the collection we had just witnessed might serve as a poignant swan song to their extensive creative partnership. The collection exuded the enigmatic, subversive, idiosyncratic, and provocatively glamorous essence intrinsic to Prada.
The soundtrack, featuring Bernard Herrmann’s compositions from “Vertigo,” evoked themes of doppelgängers, alter egos, and fragmented psyches—the same themes that pervade “It Follows,” a cinematic masterpiece of the last decade, whose soundtrack also found its place in the show. In the realm of a Raf Simons production, musical selections carry significant messages. In this instance, they mirrored a collection that presented a fractured vision, not only traversing past, present, and future but also juxtaposing the stark contrasts of hard and soft, masculine and feminine, light and dark, and work and play. These juxtapositions have been fundamental to the Prada ethos, making it fitting that they were celebrated in a collection bidding farewell to the man who had undoubtedly dissected them countless times with Mrs. Prada over the years.
The past made its presence known through homage to Miuccia’s grandfather, Mario, the founder of the company in 1913. His bohemian curiosity and artistry inspired the collection’s eccentric accessories. Mario’s early 20th-century craftsmanship also served as the muse for intricate embroideries, decorative elements, sequin spirals, constellations of beadwork, gilded fringing, and grommet details. However, the collection also showcased its toughness through robust, weathered barn jackets, patchworked black leather coats and dresses, broad-shouldered shirt jackets, and cinched waists over rah-rah shorts—a pure homage to film noir. The entire presentation was extravagantly cinematic, reminiscent of a Prada era long past. It was an eloquent way to say goodbye.
On another fashion front, Peter Hawkings took the reins at Tom Ford, following his extensive 25-year partnership with Ford since their days at Gucci. Hawkings had been overseeing the men’s operation from London while Ford’s design team handled women’s fashion from Los Angeles. This geographic divide had created a disconnect, one that Hawkings acknowledges as he transitions into the realm of women’s fashion design for the first time. Hawkings possesses keen insight and believes in bringing the two fashion houses closer together, a logical union. While they had grown apart in recent times, Ford’s menswear remained sharp, while women’s fashion had veered towards flashy extravagance.
Hawkings’ remedy, as evidenced by the collection he unveiled on Thursday night, is a return to the mid-late ’90s when Gucci redefined glamour, sensuality, and carefree fashion. Despite not sharing Ford’s natural inclination for disco allure, Hawkings’ proximity to Ford has evidently prepared him well. He presented The Velvet Suit, proudly stating, “We own velvet,” along with a fishnet dress and a series of body-hugging, second-skin floor-length dresses infused with hedonistic languor—a spirit that one could imagine reflecting Ford’s temperament. A long jersey sheath clasped by a low-slung buckle echoed Carine Roitfeld’s influence, recalling her role in styling Mario Testino’s ad campaigns for Ford’s Gucci, which became iconic images of the era. Whitney Bromberg, whom Hawkings met 25 years ago at Gucci, has since become his wife and Ford’s SVP of communications. She undoubtedly serves as his trusted confidante.
Hawkings’ enduring contribution to the Ford legacy may well be the impeccably tailored silhouette for women’s fashion, harmoniously complementing his menswear creations. Leaving the show space, I encountered a pair of Italian fashion aficionados immersed in delight, proclaiming, “Tom’s back.” Regardless of how Hawkings feels about filling such sizable shoes, it is evidently a role that needed a worthy occupant.