Almost two months after Miuccia Prada debuted her Spring 2014 runway show in Milan, it's impossible to brush off the enormity of her artistic statement.
Let's start from the very beginning: Fashion is going through a rebirth. Thanks in part to the immediacy of the internet, the ubiquity of retail giants like H&M and Forever 21, and infamy of bloggers, fashion has become, as some have called it, a carnival. (Suzy Menkes made the claim as far back as 2010.) On the red carpet, the sidewalk, and web we see the same looks rehashed again and again. With the click of a button and few bucks, anyone just about anywhere can Xerox an idea.
What's at risk of being lost, of course, is the exercise of individuality in dress. You could easily point out that unless you shop vintage or make your own clothes exclusively, each purchase one makes is directed by some Wizard of Oz of fashion behind the capitalist scrim. And there's truth to that, but the point of this article is to highlight the fact that there has become, seemingly more persistent than ever, an actual desire to look a certain, very specific part.
But that's where Prada comes in. In the midst of a sea of white and pastel spring looks from other talented designers (looks that I must say, I still loved), her show was a shock. The walls, painted with murals of "multi-visions of womanhood," as Tim Blanks explained, worked in tandem with the clothes that were anything but demure. They were bold, colorful, edgy, and sometimes pretty in their ugliness. If a woman were to recreate any of these looks on her own, she would exude sex, resilience, and intensity. She might wear a bustier atop her shirt, athletic socks and a gown, olive wool and a killer bag.
Plenty of individuals and designers have sung their own songs--Betsy Johnson, Isabel Marant (who, yes, has teamed up with H&M so that her designs are accessible to the vast majority of fans who may never be able to afford her otherwise), and Oscar de la Renta come to mind. But women--especially younger ones--who have grown up with fast fashion and Instagram and insta-celebrities, may never have considered dressing any way other than fashionably. And Prada simply offers another idea. Why? And what does that mean?
Side note: I am a humongous fan of Garance Dore, of her sensibility and genuine nature. In one of her Pardon My French installments she interviewed [beloved] designer Dries Van Noten and he, with similar grace, told her that his shows are not meant to inspire the audience to go out and buy his sweater, exactly. He offers the idea to pair a grey sweater with a gold, diaphanous skirt. It is the spark he presents, not the flame.