A Prada coat is a greater status symbol than a python coat. How's that for a twenty-first century paradox?
For Autumn/Winter 2011, Miuccia Prada kept her audience waiting for over an hour before her collection finally began to file onto the catwalk. Rumours, of course, abounded as to why - the semi-official line is that fittings and final outfit adjustments were still going on backstage, but maybe Miuccia was just having a cup of tea, drumming her fingers and watching her own live stream, eager to rile the press up. Those are the kind of shenanigan she adores.
That's the kind of perversity that leads her to dress up her often-teenaged models as little girls, in organza shift-dresses demurely pin-tucked with peter-pan collars, slips clattering with penny-sized sequins, and oversized fox-fur tippets and python coats. Those are archetypal textures of feminine seduction, trappings of luxury. But somehow Miuccia Prada rinses them of their material worth and injects them with intellectual capital. A Prada coat is a greater status symbol than a python coat. How's that for a twenty-first century paradox?
Let's forget the conceptualism, though, and focus on the frocks. And frocks were exactly what Miuccia showed, lots and lots of them, interspersed with stiff little Balenciaga-ish coats sporting cropped and curved sleeves and oversized lapels. There was a feel of the sixties to those, a decade she has visited many times before, and indeed was instrumental in reviving in the early 1990s. While the rest of the world is enamoured by the heady, calf-grazing slinky glamour of the seventies, Prada sliced her firm skirts across the mid-thigh. Quite contrary. On the whole, what she showed was far more innocent and naive - that was the idea behind her men's show in January too, dressing boys in big girl's blouses and oversized coats that seemed stolen from their father's wardrobe. This time, her models looked like dolls in those blown-up buttons, saucer-like paillettes and sofa-sized fur stoles childishly clutching giant handbags to their chests like teddy-bears. There was, however, an undeniable elegance to the silhouettes. Maybe that came from the twenties, another reference those short, pleated dresses, boxy coats (don't say slouchy) and giant fox tippets turned up.
Frankly, there were too many ideas here to possibly analyse in depth. And that's exactly what made this show so exciting. While so much on other catwalks has seemed perfectly fine, there's never been a real rush - it's easy for a a seen-it-all-before complacency to set in when you really have seen everything at least once. Prada's strength was in making the old seem new, the borrowed fresh, in extrapolating and exploring opposing avenues while somehow retaining a cohesity of whole. Python, tufted fur, organza shift dresses, toilet-bowl heels, knitted gaiters. We saw them all. There was no trend, only talent.