Milan fashion week was never going to quietly pass us by.
Instead, and as the ultimate finale, it announced the creative marriage of two of the industry’s biggest powerhouses.
At a quiet press conference at Prada’s Milan headquarters on Sunday evening, Raf Simons was named as co-creative director of the fashion house, working alongside current head of the brand Miuccia Prada.
The partnership will come into effect on 2 April and will be the first time that someone outside of the Prada family will be in part charge of the output of the brand.
Miuccia Prada said at Sunday’s press conference: “We like each other, we respect each other, we will see where that takes us.” She has been at the helm of the label since she inherited it in 1978 and elevated it from a luxury leather goods label to the market leading brand it is today. She also founded younger sister brand Miu Miu in 1993.
The designer was quick to protest that Simons’ appointment was not a sign of an impending retirement, stating on Sunday: “this is not a succession. This is a way to boost creativity.” At 70, however, it could the beginning of a transition of power – and possibly a welcome step back after 42 years of designing for her family’s brand, which was started by her grandfather in 1913.
Simons, 52, is widely known for menswear, but the partnership is not completely out of the blue.
The Belgian designer has reported into Prada before – he became creative director of Jil Sander in 2005 when it was owned by the Italian fashion house. He was hired for the simplicity of his pared-back designs and once said he wanted to “Strip it down so there was nothing that wasn’t necessary.”
Simons has job hopped ever since, leaving Jil Sander in 2012 after the return of its eponymous designer.
Simons took up the much-heeded position of creative director at Dior, where he stayed until 2015 before going to Calvin Klein between 2016 and 2018, terminating his contract nine months early under rumours of clashes with the senior team.
His track record may mean the partnership will not be a permanent one, or even one that will last longer than a few years, and Simons suggested at Sunday’s announcement that both parties are entering the collaboration cautiously: “When we both believe in it [an idea], we’re going to do it. When one doesn’t believe in it, we won’t do it.”
The first, much anticipated collection is due to be shown at spring 21 Milan Fashion Week this September.
Simons will split his time between Antwerp, the base of his menswear label, and Milan. His influence will undoubtedly bring a fresh spin on the classic brand, where he will bring the contemporary edge seen in his recent menswear collections – sleek tailoring juxtaposed with disruptive slogans and unexpected fabric combinations.
And the Italian label is hoping the move will become a lucrative one, having returned to profit in 2017/18 with a 2.8% rise in revenue on 2016/17. The results for 2018/19 will be published in March.
In a rare set-up within the fashion industry, the two designers will share responsibilities at the luxury house. It has been emphasised that Simons will have equal say, but how that translates logistically, and how much input Prada is willing to take on board after over 40 years of creative control remains to be seen.
One thing is clear, however – all eyes will be on the label’s history-making spring 20 collection this September.