milan fashion week fall 2018

Life in the Prada Matrix Looks Great

The first two days of Milan Fashion Week proved to be a chase with the proverbial white rabbit. Not only because I feared I would be late for a very important date (as I was, many times), but also because Italian houses welcomed us into various alternate realities.

On Thursday night, Miuccia Prada hosted her fall 2018 show inside the nearly finished Rem Koolhaas tower of Fondazione Prada. Attendees faced a wall of windows overlooking train tracks and a cluster of neon signs, which hung atop cranes and represented motifs from past Prada collections, like bananas. The signs blended seamlessly with the twinkling Milan cityscape in the background — their combined glow reflecting off the polished runway, which mirrored models as they walked.

The scene felt very Italian Blade Runner. An eerie, remixed version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” played as the show began, followed by a similarly warped version of “Flash in the Night” by Secret Service.

The clothes were a show of bright neons as well, with hot-pink tulle worn underneath a puffy black nylon, for contrast. The collection was yet another experiment in layering seemingly mismatched elements in sensible ways, like rubber boots with cocktail dresses, or turtlenecks under bustier tops. The woman who wears these pieces is the Milanese dweller of the future. She may have to wade through some industrial slime to get from A to B, but she’ll look f-ing great doing it.

While the clothes themselves at Prada were not overtly futuristic — save for the inclusion of some teeny-tiny Matrix sunglasses — the future was on Ms. Prada’s mind this year. “We are living in a period which is interesting because we do not know where we are going,” she reportedly told press backstage at her fall 2018 menswear show, which was inspired by virtual reality, and featured similar elements to the women’s show, like revamped Prada Sport pieces. “Of course scary, of course worrying,” Ms. Prada added. “But also interesting because of the feeling that big changes are coming.”

In an effort to keep up with the times, Prada tapped a viral, virtual, CGI-generated “It” girl named Lil Miquela to do an Instagram-story takeover for fall 2018 women’s on Thursday and introduce a range of special GIFs. The brand also “dressed” Lil Miquela in head-to-toe Prada for the occasion, proving the brand really does have something for everyone.

Believe it or not, Lil Miquela was not the first cyborg to arrive in Milan this week. On Wednesday, designer Alessandro Michele showed his own Gucci Cyborg, inspired by Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” which speaks to the blurred lines between man, machine, and animal. For Haraway, the cyborg is a metaphor for the feminist subject, who is free of societal labels and constraints. In other words, someone (or something) emancipated from our current reality.

Fendi also showed a forward-thinking collection on Thursday, taking the philosophical idea of a hybrid and commercializing it. One standout piece was a sweater that “reappropriated” the brand’s logo with Fila’s. Millennial shoppers are sure to love the look, as it allows two completely different symbols to live on the same body — an act that feels youthfully mischievous, like adding a Mento candy to a bottle of Coke and watching it explode. Combining unlikely references is not only more interesting, but also just way more fun.

Fashion’s goal has always been to show what’s new and next, but what’s exciting about this season in Milan is the freedom these designers see for the future, which includes remixing the past. What Miuccia Prada, Karl Lagerfeld, and Alessandro Michele in particular seem to understand is that the next generation of buyers wants to be able to try on lots of different personas at once, as opposed to aligning with a singular vision. This is how we exist in the digital world, and our wardrobes should reflect the boundless beauty of the internet.

It’s fashion for a finstagram generation — one where we carry around infinite selves on our phones, much like a second head. In the future, we won’t have to choose between the red and the blue pill; we can have it both ways.

Life in the Prada Matrix Looks Great