In unprecedented news, two of the fashion industry’s most respected and influential designers are joining forces.Fashion nerds are in a flap. After weeks of whispers and speculation, it was just announced that beloved Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons will be joining the equally adored Miuccia Prada as co-creative director of Prada. Commencing April 2, the role will see Raf assume “equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making” according to a release from the brand, and their first collection as a duo will be Spring/Summer 2021 womenswear, to be shown in Milan in September. According to a statement from Prada, the partnership is “born from a deep reciprocal respect and from an open conversation” and it will span all creative aspects of the brand. Speaking at an exclusive press conference in Milan, Raf shared his excitement about the new role. “Prada is a brand that I have been interested in my whole life. I cannot wait to express to all of you the dialogue I will have with Mrs. Prada and her team,” he announced. “Miuccia and I had a conversation about creativity in today’s fashion system, and it brought me to open dialogue with many designers, not just Mrs. Prada. We have to re-look at how creativity can evolve in today’s fashion system.” Interestingly, the groundbreaking contract has no end date. “In theory, it’s forever,” he divulged, also revealing that he was approached by Patrizio Bertelli (chief executive of Prada and Miuccia’s husband) immediately after Raf exited Calvin Klein, where he held the role of chief creative officer before leaving abruptly in December 2018. It’s a bold move – and, we think, an inspired one – as newly formed partnerships between established designers are rare; it also challenges the established concept of a singular visionary, instead speaking to teamwork, friendship and support. Raf himself wears Prada regularly.
This decision also offers a potential solution to the demanding expectations and pace of the current fashion system. The Prada role feels like an authentic fit for Raf – both aesthetically and intellectually – and follows several years of professional movement. Most recently Raf spent just under three years at Calvin Klein in a sprawling, reportedly high-pressure role, before which he was creative director at Christion Dior (replacing the disgraced John Galliano) where he lasted three years before resigning. It’s not his first time working for the Prada Group; in 2005 he was hired as the creative director of Jil Sander by Patrizio (the Prada Group had controlled the brand since 1999), and it was a tenure that was one of Raf’s most successful – not to mention career-changing. The Jil Sander brand was acquired by a private equity firm in 2006, and Raf was dismissed in 2012 to make way for founder Jil Sander’s return to the label – for the third time – a re-institution that lasted only 19 months. Through all of this, he has continued his namesake menswear label, founded in 1995, a brand that continues to be a cult favourite.
Miuccia and Raf are aligned both aesthetically and intellectually. Both are cerebral designers, whose collections draw from a rich and expansive well of influences and research, adeptly referencing and reflecting on culture, society, politics, and art. Beloved by a specific kind of fashion fan, they also both enjoy crossover appeal to more mainstream audiences – Kim Kardashian West herself has been seen wearing vintage Raf Simons. Raf’s appointment is a decisive move for the future of Prada. In recent years the house has sought to evolve with the changing fashion landscape, technology and shifting consumer behaviour. Originally founded in 1913 as a luggage brand, the business was inherited by Miuccia Prada, who took over from her mother in 1978. She introduced nylon bags in 1979 – a range that went on to be an enduring commercial hit and became a signature fabric of the house – and debuted ready-to-wear womenswear in 1989. Menswear followed in the mid-’90s, and sister brand Miu Miu was launched in 1992. Though slow to enter the e-commerce space (Prada clothing wasn’t available online until 2016) the house has embraced other innovations, initiatives, and expansions, of which Raf’s appointment is just the latest.
As huge fans of both Raf and Miuccia, we look forward to seeing the work they create together. It will also be interesting to see whether this collaborative approach between established designers becomes more common; after all, Dries Van Noten’s recent collaboration with Christian Lacroix was one of the best collections of the Spring/Summer 20 season. For those concerned about Miuccia’s future at Prada, she has made it clear that this move doesn’t foreshadow her retirement from the brand. “I like working,” she told the press conference. “I’m very excited and this will bring new wind.” Stay tuned.