For that, she turned her designer's eye toward avant-garde European theatre of the late 1970s and early 1980s for inspiration, employing light and sometimes transparent fabrics and knits as the mainstay of the menswear collection for next fall and winter, which included no few garments for women.
Prada eschewed the playful pop art prints that she has used in recent seasons, focusing on monochromes, which she mixed liberally in each outfit. The colours were mostly deep tones, purple, rust, teal and browns offset by cream, red and magenta. And gone were the bold, industrial sets that Rem Koolhaas has designed for the Prada showroom in past years, replaced this time by a spare stage with the audience seating below as if in an orchestra pit.
The looks themselves had a theatrical appeal — men's leisure suits in deep tones with contrasting piping along the outer seams were accented with silky scarves tied around their neck, instead of ties. Suits were paired with silky collared shirts, or super-sheer knit tops that put in clear evidence the wearer's state of fitness.
"From a fashion point of view, it was a big work for me in light fabrics. Even if it was casual, it was also kind of elegant," the designer said backstage after the collection's preview Sunday, the second day of Milan Fashion Week.
Pullover vests in quilted technical fabric, fur, and even both, were double strapped securely to the body — sometimes over a knee-length coat creating a skirted look. There also was a rich fur overcoat. Shoes were sturdily soled, and accessories included a leather camera bag and satchel.
Prada also featured many women in the show, wearing paper-light leather dresses gathered at the waist and neckline, long sheer skirts with floor-skimming boas. They wore high-heeled sandals, and carried matching leather purses on long shoulder straps.
"I wanted women so I could say what I wanted to do with men, that you can't. The women were the accessories," adding quickly: "It's a joke, eh."
Some of the looks and the music had 1930s references, Prada said, because German society she references through the theatre was "obsessed" with confronting the Nazi past, so the '30s were somehow reflected in the '80s.
Prada commissioned music selections from Kurt Weil, asking musicians to make the arrangements in four days.
"They said it normally takes six months. But they did it. They worked day and night," the designer said.