Style & Grooming

Reality Bites at Prada S/S18

This season Mrs Prada explored the idea of reality meeting virtual reality – here, Alexander Fury unpacks the show

Can we all be heroes? Maybe, in the eyes of Miuccia Prada. “Reality meets virtual reality” was the big idea behind her S/S18 menswear show. Which is big, in the scope of what it encompasses – the actual, material world and its increasingly inextricable intersection with a new digital landscape. The two are no longer separate entities – virtual reality is a reality. So where do you draw the line?

That kind of thinking fascinates Mrs Prada: if something is popular, or ubiquitous, she wants to know why. It can’t have slipped past her that the majority of her audience view her shows from behind the phosphorescent screen of a lifted iPhone, recording the moment rather than actually experiencing it. That is, maybe, why she put her audience into a virtual reality of their own – of disconnected frames of action pulled from graphic novels, drawn by two illustrators, Ollie Schrauwen and James Jean. Even the physicality of the Prada showspace on via Fogazzaro was drawn over by their hands – there columns that flank the catwalk were edged in thick black lines, as if they were drawings that leapt to life. “You don’t know what is virtual and what is real,” she commented backstage, grinning slyly. “You’re all sitting in this virtual reality, but it’s real!”

Real and fake. Those are Prada obsessions – she’s the woman who invented cerulean mink, real furs dyed to look unreal. If anything, this was a plunge into hyper-reality, as envisaged by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard; where reality labours at its counterfeit, until the counterfeit becomes the only reality. 

I couldn’t help but connect the Prada models, with their pumped up and pushed out shoulders, their waists cinched by panels of velcro and proportions exaggerated by high-cut waists and rolled-up sleeves, with supermen. And aren’t those exaggerated images the ones propagated via social media? It’s human instinct to present oneself from the best angle, and in there best light – to labour after your own counterfeit, to create yourself as something bigger and better, something superhuman.

Which is kind of what fashion is about – fashioning yourself, anew.