HomeLifestyleAt Prada, It’s in With the Old

At Prada, It’s in With the Old

MILAN — Just about the last “ism” no one gets noisy about is the one regarding age. Fashion, in particular, has been a chronic offender, fetishizing millennials and tapping a foot while waiting for the olds to pack up and check into a home.

It is common business knowledge that baby boomers outspend consumers from any other age cohort. It just hasn’t been fashionable to say so in public. Yet, all that is changing and for reasons that could be market-driven but also as arbitrary as most else in fashion.

Edward Enninful, the British Vogue editor whose tenure at the magazine has established him as a real cultural propellant, put an exclamation on a statement being made across the industry when he featured 57-year-old Kristen McMenamy, the white-maned 1990s supermodel on the January cover.

Alessandro Michele at Gucci, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe and Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent have also shown a decided taste for vintage humans, building campaigns around not only the likes of Ms. McMenamy (Gucci), but the 76-year-old novelist Susanna Moore (Loewe) and the 65-year-old Jerry Hall, who first made a splash in the prehistoric 1970s and stars in a forthcoming Saint Laurent campaign.

So it felt like a logical and proper corrective for Miuccia Prada, 72, and Raf Simons, 54, to open their men’s wear show with the actor Kyle MacLachlan, who at 62 is old enough to draw Social Security payments, and close it with Jeff Goldblum, who at 69 has almost reached the plateau at which Hollywood delivers stars their lifetime achievement award.

The point is that as people are living longer, there remains no valid reason for fashion to put them out to pasture. Take away the inevitable hambone aspects of these actors’ appearances (Mr. MacLachlan spoke to my colleague Anna Kambhampaty about getting into character for his turn on the runway: Method catwalk) and there was something admirable about the authority they brought to the clothes.

Wearing a dark greatcoat trimmed with a tech mohair hem and armbands, over what one observer termed “big-break” pants and chisel-toed shoes, Mr. Goldblum summoned up images, possibly drawn from the movies, of important men making “entrances” and “appearances” and projecting a kind of authority that no longer inheres automatically in being anatomically male.

Clothes still have the power to effect that magic. Sure, to use the RuPaul mantra, we’re all born naked and the rest is drag. Yet owning the performance is, of course, a key element both of acting and of the daily public roles we enact. Ms. Prada suggested in her show notes that the aim now was to produce clothes that made people — not axiomatically male people, although all the models were men — feel important.

It was a roundabout way of addressing the befuddlement so many feel at this point in a resurgent and seemingly unending pandemic. Not only have we been substantially deprived of one another’s company over the last two years, we’ve missed out on the theater of daily life. What does it mean to dress for the occasion when there is no occasion?

Perhaps it means you pull on one of the flight suits (or boiler suits) that were evidently Mr. Simons’s contribution to the collaborative collection, some broken into two pieces, but most voluminous and enveloping and in certain ways as infantilizing as were last year’s knitted long johns.

Mr. Simons has been vampirizing youth culture for so long that it occasionally seems that the march of time has escaped his notice. Stretching things a bit, you could suppose his ultimate goal as a designer is to upend certain hierarchical ways of conveying power in how we dress. And looked at in that way, his work gives the impression of balancing what can appear to be Ms. Prada’s more conservative outlook.

But the reward you get for tracking Ms. Prada’s mind and career across the decades is watching her engineer a progressive series of mini-subversions. Here they took the form of supersize leather trench coats, weighty bomber jackets, structured (and baldly Balenciaga-inspired) field jackets and mohair-trimmed “Grand Hotel” overcoats in which the wearer cannot help but feel, as she put it in her notes, “important.”

Ms. Prada is using design to argue for conservative structure at a time when the center refuses to hold and so much about our daily existences feels disheveled. Just when you think that the designer may have ceded control — to Mr. Simons, to the tyranny of TikTok, to the kiddies — she subtly wrests it back and reminds you that the person who’s truly in charge here is a grown-up.

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