Prada; What’s Going On?

The venue for Miuccia Prada’s latest show was a little strange, a little apocalyptic, and tinged all over with a strange sense of exotic glamour. No less than 150 tons of sand, dyed mauve and poured over a rust-coloured carpet, had been built into sparkling dunes in the centre of the room. The clothes themselves were, also, a little strange, a little apocalyptic, and tinged all over with a strange sense of exotic glamour; patchwork and fragmented, yet somehow opulent and alluring. There’s always a sense that Prada is trying to confront us with something, to make us think – but what she wants us to think is anyone’s guess. Think what you want.


Returning after a six-year hiatus from modelling, Gemma Ward opened the show in a double-breasted coat with white stitching outlining the seams, creating a striking contrast with the black body of the coat.


From then on out, this was a show full of opposites and contradictions. The silhouettes were fairly basic and typical of Prada – neat, with knee-length hemlines and fuss-free shapes – but the use of fabrics and patterns was anything but basic, and the wooden clog-boots and crocodile bowling bags made for something a little different (as an aside – I would really like one of those bags, if anyone’s offering).


And I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to own one or two things from this collection; Miuccia Prada is, above all, a savvy saleswoman. She knows what women want to wear, and she caters to contemporary tastes, without compromising on quality.


“I wanted to revive the beauty of incredible fabrics,” the designer explained, and indeed there was a beautifully decadent selection of materials on display, from strips of heavy brocade and rich flocking to chinoiserie silk shirts. These are materials and patterns you might be more likely to find papering walls or upholstering furniture in a stately home, rather than moving along the catwalks of Milan; but somehow, Prada made it work, mixing the different textures together and splicing them into leather A-line skirts.


Perhaps it was the quality of the individual fabrics which prevented the overall combination from feeling too jarring. All of the materials were designed and created especially for this collection, then cut and sliced and put together again in uniquely beautiful combinations. It was like someone had gone through a deserted palace, gleaning tattered scraps of material that had once been used in beautiful dresses or decor, and then threading them all together to make a brand new type of beauty. There was a definite balance between expensive patterns and textures, and the slightly rag-and-bone man aesthetic; threads leaked from ragged hemlines, and everything felt vaguely as though it was fraying away into nothing.


Indeed, this entire show seemed to be about such stark contrasts; those materials, for example, which blend both the rich and the poor, were also created using very traditional methods to a very modern affect. Prada herself stated that she was thinking about the craftmanship methods of the past, “and how we can enjoy it today.”


The designer’s conflicted relationship with concepts of “beauty” also came through in these designs, with Ms Prada emphasising her idea of beauty as an “impossibility.” For this collection – from the strength of its original conception to the wonderfully executed end result – was beautiful. Indeed, perhaps it was even more beautiful for the fact that it was not as obviously, conventionally pretty as some of the other collections we have seen recently. It was dark and fragmented, roughly stitched in some places but threaded with diamonds in others; the skill that had gone into the creation of the clothes was deliberately made evident.


Prada’s designs are always a highlight of any season; and these will give us plenty to mull over whilst we wait for the next. A triumph, in more ways than one.