On Jan. 17, Prada presented its Fall 2016 menswear collection in Milan, an assortment that referenced, as lead designer Miuccia Prada told Vogue backstage, “immigration, famine, assassination, [and] pessimism.” Heavy stuff for a fashion show, especially when contrasted with Gucci, the season’s other main draw during Milan Fashion Week, that featured feather-light pieces like a shiny tank top with a rendering of Snoopy on the front. But, despite the gloom of inspiration pulled from the troubled state of global affairs, the Prada show had several bright spots—including one shirt that has emerged as the must-have item of the season for both well-dressed guys with disposable income and celebrities like Kanye West and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh.
The Impossible True Love shirt, as it is called, is a silky, cotton, short-sleeved, $1,020 button-up that features an original drawing by Christophe Chemin of Elvis making out with Cleopatra. It sounds bonkers on paper—and that is without mentioning the dual moons with human faces also depicted in the scene —but it’s in line with the three other original works the French, Berlin-based artist created for Prada this season. Another sketch, for example, features Che Guevara, Hercules, Joan of Arc, and Nina Simone dance-fighting. Somehow, it all works.
“I remember being at the show and thinking it was super striking and a bit of a 'piece,’” says Sam Lobban, buying manager at Mr Porter, where the shirt is currently available for purchase. “It was such a strong show, and this was definitely one of the standouts.”
Other fashion insiders agreed. Abloh was spotted wearing the piece at John Elliott’s runway show in New York in July. West stepped out with wife Kim Kardashian in a long-sleeved version earlier this month in Miami. Both helped the shirt become a current status symbol that denotes luxury living and making a flashy fashion statement. “The print is bold and decidedly quirky, and pretty damn sexy in a humorous way,” Michael Fisher, menswear creative director at trend-forecasting agency Fashion Snoops, explains. “It's like walking around with a cool old comic book on your chest.”
Stylist (and former Complex editor) Matthew Henson was snapped by a plethora of street style photographers when he wore the shirt to the Yeezy Season 4 presentation on Roosevelt Island in New York. “I have a very basic wardrobe of black, navy, and white garments,” he says. “So, it’s always great to throw something on that has a little bit of print, color, or graphic to mix things up.”
The public debut of West's and Henson’s Prada pieces were both on the early end of consumer availability (and Abloh’s first sighting in the shirt was months in advance). Mr. Porter is the only retailer that sells Prada’s men’s ready-to-wear collection online, and it only put this piece on sale two weeks ago. If you're considering a purchase and the shirt isn’t already hanging in your closet, the question of whether or not to buy even now, just a short time later, looms large—anything that’s as of-the-moment as this runs the risk of burning out quickly thanks to overexposure. “The catch-22 of Prada prints is that as amazing as they are, if you're the least bit savvy about fashion, it will forever more be connected to a certain season and year,” Fisher says.
And, there’s that price tag. Anyone who wants the most bang for their buck could buy two plain white Prada shirts for less or take home the same style top in a less attention-grabbing print—not designed by Chemin—and save around $300. More financially responsible, sure, but has financial responsibility ever mattered to fashion fans interested in keeping up with the Wests?
Either way, owning a piece of potential fashion history that may only be wearable for a limited amount of time is a roll of the dice. “Prada is never a bad investment, unless you can’t financially afford it,” Henson says. As one of the most recognizable names in fashion, Prada pieces will usually retain some resale value if you tire of wearing it now. Only time will tell if that value will actually increase, though. “You’d have to wait a few seasons to see if people are still referencing back to it,” Lobban says. “But I definitely think it has the power to be one of the Prada menswear archival pieces.”
Still on the fence? Think big picture. “Any piece of clothing you add to your wardrobe should have a purpose,” Henson advises. He agrees with Fisher in concluding that the Impossible True Love shirt is primarily for Prada completists only. “Unless you're a collector, I'd just admire it on Kanye from afar,” Fisher adds.
If all else fails, you can always consult a more level-headed expert. “I also double checked this question with my accountant,” Henson says. “He said it was ok for me to buy it.”