At its Autumn/Winter 16 menswear show, Prada sent out a collection of intelligence, warmth, curiosity, humility and wit. It was the sort of show much needed by the label, one that restates its position as fashion authority, defining and guiding the season in which it shows. More importantly for this brand going through choppy financial waters: it was rammed with stuff to buy.
Its beginnings and base were in the clothing of sailors, overt for a few looks with white sailor hats and plimsolls. Double-breasted sailor coats were excellent, with a masculine presence but also fitted in the back to flatter. Trousers had a jaunty crop. Coats and pants were in a battered denim — a cloth which has its origins in the sailing community of Genoa of the 17th century. Sailors smocks came in a variety of cloths.
But then there was so much more. Austria was present in loden capes and high-buttoning jackets, reminiscent of one of Miuccia Prada’s last ever men’s collections for Miu Miu. Shirts came printed with newly drawn images by Christophe Chemin of mythical creatures and scenes. One had unicorns, another, a couple kissing like they were reunited after the war. Elsewhere, knits were particularly strong. About halfway through, a model came out in a scalloped multicolour zip-up knit. It was an immediate and obvious winner.
Within the mix there was lots of fashion, but what counted was its message of clarity. What matters right now is the cut and fit of clothing that works in a man’s life. Yes, there were detachable collars and shirts with flyaway yokes, but what counted here was the stellar run of coats and jackets, each cut to flatter the male form. Prada needs to regain its position as the place where men go to get their day-in-day-out tailoring and outerwear. This collection was a fine start.
Back to that zip-up knit. As soon as it came out on the catwalk, I had marked its card. Backstage, I was on the hunt. The model had just taken it off. It was folded up waiting to be bagged. I put it on a hanger, took a photo and posted it on Instagram. Nothing I have ever posted has had such an immediate reaction. A friend who had watched the livestream texted: “That Prada cardi!! One of that unique subset of menswear that’ll look better on chubby men than skinny. I love!!”. It will look great on many a size guy, but whatever. It’s a Sunday night. People have got other things to do, to think about. My friends don’t normally react to shows in this way. Here at Prada, there was something resonant going on.
More bits and bobs: a cute new little photographers bag shape — the first time for ages anyone has shown an interesting new bag for men on the catwalk. Check jackets and wool gloves were knitted with images of keys. Those printed shirts had a medley of labels at the bottom, to denote the name of the image. It was great to see Mrs Prada move away from her arch love of decadence — fur etc — and work with straightforward cloths and yarns. It all felt generous. Oh, and there was a ton of womenswear too, all Pre-Fall 16. Apologies, I paid it no mind. My attention was elsewhere.
Looking back at last season’s Prada, the influence on what’s happening right now is clear. Then, she showed the sort of sporty zip-up and tracksuit that has been on so many catwalks, particularly Burberry. Six months ago, she had said what she had wanted on sports clothing. Time to move on. She did so with a collection that spoke to what works in fashion for men, and why men’s style is a valid pursuit.
For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com