Miuccia Prada has been toying with ordinary for a while now. Remember A/W 13 when she dressed her boys like normcore heroes in deliberately average knits and shirts? She's also the master of ugly, awkward fashion - the stuff you don't know you want until she shows it to you. Today, those two ideas came together in a collection that seemed to celebrate retro normality. This wasn't about looking back to the seventies or nineties and celebrating them or mining them for references, but rather jarring our eye with how odd out-dated good taste looks today. That's why everything looked so appropriate and conventional but also so unsettling. Mrs Prada is one of the only designers who can evoke such complex reactions.
Even the set that graced the ever-changing Prada show space, always a point of interest, suggested nostalgia for forgotten tastes and standards. So a plush carpet that furnished walls and floors came in an awkward, outdated shade of brown - the kind of hue that only appears now in caravans or properties in need of renovation. Similarly, the graphic swimming pool that models paraded around suggested good taste, good fun and outdated luxury. A wholesome symbol of summer, warped.
And so to the clothes. Menswear and womenswear appeared together. Working in an industry as progressive as ours when it comes to sexuality and gender, I've pondered for a while how long the odd divide between menswear and womenswear would continue. Not all designers want to show unisex clothing, but then it does seem strange to expect them to split their ideas between the boys and the girls in an age where we don't treat our men and women differently. Mrs Prada clearly feels her concepts are gender-less - I'd agree. Indeed, by pulling both men and women into this strange retro world, cladding them all in a matchy matchy suits with topstitching to reinforce their classic, conventional shapes, and simple V-neck knits and retro leather overcoats, she doubled the show's impact - this was a proposition of life, rather than just a display of some wares. And what life was that? One that values 'appropriateness' it seems. This was all about fitting in and pleasing. But there's the twist - the pioneer of beautiful bad-taste showing us good-taste. The queen of embellishment, print and fun fur (think back in the Prada archive to those bad wallpaper prints, silly printed golf shirts and jazzy hibiscus patterns) telling us to dress to conform and defer to accepted standards. But then Mrs Prada's always loved to go one way as the rest of us go the other, and given that the fashion industry she operates in right now has never been more about rule-breaking and wearing whatever with whatever as long as you stand out, this celebration of sartorial conservatism felt timely.