The sex-a-peel of the Prada Banana shirt

Written by Jonathan Mahon-Heap

Photography Supplied

Critics were slipping over themselves to appraise Prada’s 2017 men’s banana shirt. For our next iconic design instalment, INDEX asks, where did the a-peel come from?

The mesmerising ugliness of the banana shirt of Prada’s Fall/Winter 2018 Men’s collection makes you look twice. The boldness required to step out in such an item even led The New Yorker to describe the shirt as “a piece of performance art”. As luxury brands pride themselves on more aggressively quirky merch than ever — think Balenciaga’s crocs — we wonder, when did we step away from the self-serious slickness of luxury?

Welcome to the norm for post-normcore. Brands have come to champion the kind of strangeness that we embrace elsewhere; to adopt the impenetrable oddity of millennial humour in their fabric. We can see it in campaigns; from Gucci’s meme campaign or Coach’s fake-infomercial ads. Where the one-upping-ness of the industry used to lie in sourcing dizzyingly expensive talent, it now exists in spinning the most off-kilter, kitsch takes on a brand’s DNA. The Prada Banana Flame Print Cotton Shirt is Off-Brand, On the Nose, and Out of Its Mind. It is gauche beyond compare, the sort of thing a cartoon Dad would wear; Homer Simpson at a theme park. It has become a byword for the type of ugly chic that now dominates.

Perhaps the reason for its $2,525 price tag is that there is only one person who looks good wearing it — Jeff Goldblum. Jeff championed the deliciously ugly shirt during otherwise vanilla press conferences for the new Jurassic World film. There was, as with the best statement-making pieces, a trickle-down effect into department stores; from Harvey Nichols to Topshop, banana earrings, leggings and blouses appeared. 

The viral New York Times story Sweatpants Forever zeroed in on the logical reasons behind the industry’s trends towards increasingly inaccessible dressing, attributing it to the frantic fashion calendar: “The fashion cycle stopped making sense. And the clothes themselves got kind of weird. The sped-up calendar gave birth to “seasonless dressing,” a trend of Frankenstein clothing items: toeless boots, sleeveless coats — you get it. When you’re delivering fall in July, it’s really not about the weather anymore”.

But the shirt was no slip-up for Prada. Are we amused? Are we appalled? Are we both? What matters is, whether it makes you go nuts, or go apesh*t, we’re still talking about it.


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