When we look at the relationship between music and fashion, as well as between fashion trends and youth culture, we get a clearer understanding of the times we live in. In this series, Tsuya-chan, an up-and-coming writer, analyzes current cultural events by examining contemporary music with a focus on Japanese hip-hop.
In the twelfth installment, Tsuya-chan dissects Prada, which became a prominent topic of discussion last year when Raf Simons joined the brand as Miuccia Prada’s co-creative director. What lies at the core of this ever-changing brand? Tsuya-chan unravels Prada’s creativity by way of lyrics by Tyler, The Creator and SEEDA, which include the word, Prada.
The meaning of dialogue in Tyler, the Creator and SEEDA’s lyrics
The eponymous opening track of Goblin, Tyler, The Creator’s first official solo album, features the following talk with Dr. TC, an imaginary therapist: “The devil doesn’t wear Prada, I’m clearly in a fucking white tee.”
In the second song, “Yonkers,” he raps, “I’m a fucking walking paradox, no I’m not.” He delivers a raw, shocking image of himself splitting up through this conversation with himself.
Alternately, let’s look at SEEDA’s “Hell’s Kitchen” from SEEDA, released in 2009, which is undoubtedly the most famous Japanese rap song that namedrops Prada. This song, which has the line, “A deranged nerd murders/The gyarus in the countryside hunt for Prada,” has the most salient social message out of SEEDA’s discography. Moreover, in response to SEEDA rapping, “You pretend to be asleep at the National Diet/The problem is you’re preparing for war,” Cypress Ueno raps, “You’re not giving more cash handouts?” This 12-year-old song which still rings true today, then asks a question:
“Show me all kinds of reasons and love/Shoot me wit my problems/Start to get up wake up ride/Hell’s kitchen life/What do you want to do?”
Here, SEEDA is asking for the listener’s opinion. In the outro, he says, “If you have something to say, say it; I’m not perfect, anyway.” As such, he’s telling the listener that exchanging words—having a dialogue—is vital. He playfully raps, “I’m a hundred million commentators,” and shows the necessity of exchanging views by conversing instead of making irresponsible comments. Further, SEEDA is affirming that his opinions will change as he learns and thinks, asks questions, accepts answers, at times have intersecting views with the other person, and thinks again despite feeling angry. When a contradiction is born within oneself, sometimes the self gets divided with opposing value systems. And that’s fine. Rather than living comfortably with everyday values, an approach that could bring about discord via conversation is necessary.
The rebirth of Prada as a brand that creates discourse
Filled with intellectual curiosity, Prada has always excited and taught us something important. After venturing into ready-to-wear womenswear in 1989, the brand has constantly been ahead of the curve regarding shoes, bags, and clothing trends, while maintaining a wearable and cute feeling. Prada’s a rare brand that can balance prestige and profitability. Since launching Miu Miu in 1995, Miuccia Prada has developed the brand’s tête-à-tête. It seems as though she was trying to create an independent brand with dialogues by forming a partnership between the “friendly” Miu Miu and “opinionated” Prada.
In an interview she previously gave to Vogue Japan, she touched on the subject of conversing. She grew up around many educated, intellectual people and was quiet at first because she didn’t know what to say. She then slowly gained knowledge by studying, reading, and watching films. The more she learned, the more she spoke. As a result, she’s become a talkative person.
Her inclination for a particular kind of education gave a high-brow side to Prada. Thanks to her interpretation of things as a woman, Miuccia Prada has produced charming, appealing products for many women. Moreover, while many brands took on ideologically empty, promotional, lazy collaborations with other brands in the mid-2010s to generate buzz, people quietly paid attention to Miuccia Prada’s next moves. They wondered if Prada was also going to transition to collaborations. As speculations ran wild, the brand’s performance growth was starting to weaken little by little.
Welcoming Raf Simons and starting a new conversation
In February 2020, Prada became the center of global attention for the first time in a long time. The brand announced that Raf Simons was appointed as Miuccia Prada’s co-creative director. On the website, it seemed like they couldn’t hide their excitement:
“This partnership, encompassing all creative facets of the Prada label, is born from a deep reciprocal respect and from an open conversation – it is a mutual decision, proposed and determined by both parties. It opens a new dialogue, between designers widely acknowledged as two of the most important and influential of today.
“If the notion of a partnership is to work jointly, the result of that conversation may not only be product but also the propagation of a thought and a culture.”
from Prada Official Website
The announcement is indeed appropriate for Prada, and it says in clear writing that this cooperation is a dialogue between the designers. At first glance, it could look like a statement against the excess of low-effort collaborations in the world, but this declaration was manifested soon after in a sincere manner. The duo’s first campaign, the 2021 SS womenswear collection, was named Dialogues. To create the campaign, Prada used the duality of people and technology. The modeling and styling were done by people while the pictures were shot by a 360-degree camera. The theme extends to communicating with the audience, as could be seen on the campaign page. Contemplative questions like, “Is culture speeding up or slowing down?” are thrown at the audience.
For their 2021 FW menswear collection, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons further expanded their discussion by holding a virtual Q & A session with students worldwide. The brand is trying to reclaim an authentic feel to collaborations right now. The act of conversing equates to facing fear, as it could sway one’s values, bring about dissonance, and possibly create polar opposite elements within oneself. It means allowing different things to coexist without settling down. Accept the chaos that comes with having contradictory thoughts to stimulate and question oneself.
The 2021 FW menswear collection; the disquiet brought on by dialogues
It’s not a stretch to say that the brand’s 2021 FW menswear collection remarkably embodies the coexistence of contradictory things and the division its tumult brings forth. The looks may give off a Raf Simons flair, but Miuccia Prada references the brand’s iconic, historical elements through textiles and prints. The oversized bomber jackets and such are the result of the push and pull between the abstract and material, creating dissonance and coexisting in harmony on the models. Layering a jacket with rolled-up sleeves onto the much-talked-about jacquard bodysuit with a texturally smooth, inorganic, and abstract feel gives off a concrete finish, which generates a sense of unease. This technique is Raf Simons’ most recognizable to date. A banging soundtrack by Plastikman, aka Richie Hawtin, permeated the venue. Although the imagined space is difficult to distinguish, it still evokes a soft, warm feeling with nostalgia. Miuccia Prada’s eye has revived the archives of various arts and garments and given them a nostalgic yet new and simple feel. Thanks to her dynamic with Raf Simons, the tension between the abstract and material is generating a force so strong that it’s about to erupt.
Listening to KM’s piercing music during a summer robbed of discussions
This summer, a particular sports festival is taking place in an audience-less stadium, as though it were a virtual space. It’s as if there’s no sign that it’s in Tokyo. When I look at the quietly dripping sweat, it starts to appear like the sight was made by elaborate computer graphics technology. The coexistence of the abstract and material could be observed at this sports festival too. However, this audience-less sports event was held in a one-sided fashion and without any questions. All noise is gone during the competitions. Even when I watch the footage, it slips through the cracks of my mind. It even seems like the ceremony’s being held in a matter-of-fact way—like there are no problems at all. It’s as if they need to carry it out just to say, “We made this event happen.”
Once summer is gone, fall will come. By then, the 2021 FW season of Prada will be out too. This summer, I’ve been listening to KM’s EVERYTHING INSIDE. KM’s hyperpop-adjacent, piercing sound blends well with many guest rappers, just like a conversation. The artist put an abstract spell on the sounds with a solid feel. As such, it has an asymmetric appeal. I recommend you to listen to “2020IOC” if you want to listen to a song based on this abstract sports festival that doesn’t hesitate to create division. I plan on escaping this summer heat by listening to this song, made by Efeewma, a producer with a similar taste to KM. This is a summer where those in power exercised their authority over us and robbed our right to have dialogues.