Inflation is coming to the catwalks. . .

Models at the Prada Spring/Summer 23 show in Milan © WireImage

Prada has had a remarkable turnaround over the past three years, which it owes in part to Raf Simons, the former Calvin Klein designer whom it hired as co-creative director on the eve of the pandemic – as well as to a much improved digital communication strategy. Sales increased 22% year-on-year to 1.9 billion euros in the first half of 2022, beating market expectations.

Can Prada maintain the magic? Her latest show in Milan, titled ‘Touch of Crude’, suggests it’s possible: the designers lined the walls of their exhibition space at the Fondazione Prada with black kraft paper pierced with windows, behind which moving images of interiors lit by Nicolas Winding. Refn, director of the 2011 film Conduct.

The clothes themselves added to the weirdness: industrial gray woolen jumpsuits, some topped with square coats or blazers, and graphite and bark-colored knit sweaters and pencil skirts heavily crinkled at the elbows and hips like s they had been worn for weeks. Strips of dresses and blazers trailed in paper-like fabric, and moto-style jackets and pencil skirts were trimmed in distressed black leather.

The most memorable pieces were the dyed silk sheets stuck to the dresses – the bleeding edges of the dye were left exposed on the garment, and the thigh-high slits were torn in the fabric rather than cut and sewn. In their show notes, Simons and Prada said they wanted to reflect “a sense of the hand, a touch of rawness, a rawness that evokes fragility.”

A female catwalk model in an ankle length silk dress

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons reflected their interpretation of the “raw” via dyed silk dresses with bleeding edges. . .

A female catwalk model in a short, ruffled dress above the knees

. . . and the graphite dresses creased and crumpled as if they had been worn for weeks © Monic

A female catwalk model in a long pale pink dress

At Tod’s, Walter Chiapponi focused on muted colors and clean silhouettes. . .

A female catwalk model in a pale pink skirt suit with yellow shoes

. . . for a minimalist collection of soft leather and suede dresses © Carlo Scarpato

Playing on the other definition of ‘gross’, there were pastel jumpers and long, narrow skirts sheer enough to show the models’ underwear underneath – but in a season when skin was so exposed, they seemed relatively wise.

Industry watchers look to Prada perhaps more than any other show to see where fashion is headed next, and this collection hinted at a shift to quieter luxury – more subtle and less decorative.

Colors were also muted at Tod’s, where designer Walter Chiapponi mixed svelte brown suede dresses and eggplant-colored leather coats with sporty canvas jackets and khaki pants. The brand continued to underperform the luxury market despite Chiapponi’s aesthetic reboot, which established the brand in ready-to-wear and ushered in a range of new styles of handbags and shoes, many of which are stamped of a “T” in gold. Earlier this week Italian market watchdog Consob approved founder Diego Della Valle’s bid to take the group private where it is hoped his fortunes will improve.

At Gucci, financial analysts have been waiting for years for the magic to stop. Its rise under Creative Director Alessandro Michele and Managing Director Marco Bizzarri has been so steep and rapid – sales last year were €9.73 billion compared to €3.5 billion in 2014 , making it one of the three most profitable brands in the industry – that a fall seemed inevitable.

The fact that it didn’t drop is largely down to good marketing and Michele’s seemingly endless arsenal of creative ideas. His show in Milan delivered again. Giving it the title “Twinsburg”, he wrote in his show notes about having “two mothers” – his mother is a twin, and instilled in him an “eternal fascination with the double”.

Identical twins on the catwalk in identical bold blue outfits

Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele presented his new collection on identical twins. . .

Identical twins on the catwalk in identical patterned outfits

. . . a reflection on twinning and fraternity in times of political conflict © Getty Images for Gucci

A female catwalk model in a flamboyant outfit made up of multicolored inflatable structures like rubber duckies.  Yes really

Moschino’s Jeremy Scott played with “inflation,” adorning party dresses with pool floaties. . .

A female catwalk model in a matching yellow dress, hat, handbag and shoes

. . . and covering the heads of the models with hats shaped like life jackets © Allfonso Catalano

What this had to do with the collection was not immediately clear. The models stepped out in a succession of highly individual looks inspired by East and West, haute couture and folk costumes: skirt suits carefully cut from a print of keys and missiles, red sequined pajamas and cheongsam dresses, prairie skirts and wooden platform clogs, paisley print flared pants and woolen blazers. Social media catnip in the form of gremlin dolls were tucked in and locked into handbags with saddle-like flaps; one was worked in the fabric of a sapphire blue evening dress.

The connection to the twins became clear halfway through, when the show’s photographic backdrop was mounted to the ceiling, revealing that an identical show – shown on identical twin models – had taken place on the other side. The models then did another lap for both audiences, this time hand in hand.

The twins, Michele wrote, “are well aware that they are not at the center of the universe,” and this pairing shows us “the sense of co-belonging and brotherhood that should guide our journey across this planet.” In times of war and political division, Michele seemed to want to remind the audience that we humans are quite alike, sharing, in his words, a “common creature destiny.”

In recent years, critics and the public have come to expect designers to incorporate social or political statements into their collections – the reversal of Roe vs Wade and the war in Ukraine being recent examples.

Jeremy Scott has met this challenge head-on. “Everyone talked about inflation – housing, food, gasoline,” observed the American designer before his show for the Italian brand Moschino. “So I brought inflation to the track!”

It was a full-on take: air was pumped into inflatable collars, lapels, pockets and boots; the peplum of a rubber duck yellow sheath dress was cast in the shape of an inflatable ring (finished with handles on the shoulders), floor-length party dresses were stacked with colorful pool floats. Leading these confections were hats shaped like life jackets courtesy of milliner Stephen Jones.

It was a fun and playful subversion of the cultural clout fashion designers are now expected to wield. Scott simply believes that his role is to create optimism and joy. “I think myself and a lot of other people feel like we’re drowning in negativity and delusion. [right now],” he said.

Is he worried about inflation affecting his business? “A little,” Scott replied. “It makes everything difficult for everyone.”

Lauren Indvik is the FT’s fashion editor

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