Thursday, February 25, 2010



The name itself may as well be fashion shorthand for rapid and startling change. Each season people wait with bated breath to see where Miuccia will go, and the results are pretty much always bound to captivate and alienate due to their unfamiliarity. While Prada doesn't reinvent the sartorial wheel with her work what she does is take things that are mainstream or banal and subvert them somehow, breathing new life into old ideas and changing the eye of the viewing public. A Prada show, more than any other, elicits a strong reaction upon first glance. It's always a love it or hate it kind of experience.

But this season rather than sending out something strange and unexpected Miuccia sent out a collection that was so quintessentially Prada it could almost be considered predictable. From the first look to the last it was a reminder of what the house has always stood for; traditional, nostalgic femininity with more than a hint of oddness. Retro geometric prints in icky colors? Present and accounted for. Intentionally frumpy, cheap looking knitwear? Also on display. Dirndl skirts and A-line coats? The collection was filled with them. Just like with Marc Jacobs' collection in New York this was Prada reworking her own past. But as familiar as all of the elements were, as unmistakably "Prada" as the clothes appeared don't for one second think that Miuccia wasn't changing everyone's eye. The first look out, a long sleeved black wool dress with a fluted skirt and molded bust was prim and almost dowdy in that Italian widow kind of way, except that the folds used to give the bust it's almost pointed shape looked like nipples. Many of the looks, like a a few sleeveless tops worn with some of the only pairs of pants in the collection, or a series of dresses in wool, melange cable knit, PVC or colorful mid-century wallpaper printed silk had rows of curving ruffles on the bust. A few other pieces had a single ruffle tracing the underside. And many of the slightly A-line coats were cut with an empire waistline. All of these details drew the attention right to the breasts, and more than anything else that was the focus of the collection. It seems like years since a voluptuous decollete has been a priority in fashion, and I find the shift away from a boyish, layered, unstructured shape completely refreshing. Mixed in were many takes on Prada's signature 60s prints in muddled shades of tan, brown, purple, mustard and blue, chunky knit or patent leather separates like skirts and pea jackets with double collars, and a few black felt pieces covered with dense jet beading. Paired with the big beehive 'dos, sexy pointed toe stilettos, bulky knee high socks and the occasional pair of exaggerated two-tone cat's eye glasses the entire collection was all mixed signals; quirky but chic, dowdy but sexy. But the one thing that was crystal clear was how womanly the clothes were. It was impossible to miss.

I'm still a little torn about the collection to be honest. On the one hand I love a lot of the clothes, and I love what the collection is saying. It's completely exhilarating to see something that requires a bit of a body to actually pull off. Not that all of these clothes will flatter everyone, but they certainly seem geared towards a decent variety of grown women with grown women's parts. I also think that the way Miuccia reworked all of her signatures was well done, and will no doubt appeal to a lot of different people. On the other hand, the look of this collection is completely familiar. Save maybe for the ruffles on the boobs this collection is made up entirely of traditional Prada elements. Even though it's a surprise because a) it has almost nothing to do with where fashion is right now and b) it has nothing to do with what Miuccia did last season there really isn't anything jarring about it, and for me that jarring newness is what I look forward to from Prada. But in a way it makes sense. Every so often Miuccia does go back to the template that made her famous to start with. It's a bit like a palette cleanser before her next bout of restless experimentation.

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