Some march with placards, others march with clothing. As models strode around the Prada show space in spangly, sparkly, textured garments, Miuccia Prada played out her own version of a protest. The Women’s March, but with ostrich-feather trims? I hear you laugh. But out of nearly all the designers showing today, many others of whom have jumped on the feminist bandwagon recently, Prada has the most convincing pedigree when it comes to politics on the runway. A much loved fact about her amongst the fashion pack - and one that is often used by writers to support their heavy intellectualising about her collections - is that she was once, as a young woman, secretary of Milan's Communist party and involved in the Italian women’s rights movement. Yet Prada rarely openly plays politics on the runway - she leaves those who critique the shows to do the heavy debating and over-thinking. What did she mean? What was she saying? Was that a veiled message? Part of the success of Prada has always been her ability to make others see everything she does as intellectual and significant.
But for A/W 17, it seemed that Prada was more inclined to err on the side of deep thinking and 'speak out'. That is, after all, what countless motivational Instagram posts and op-eds are encouraging us all to do that the moment. Resist! Well, so she should, with a platform such as hers. She was done playing coy with her beliefs, firmly pitching the collection as a tribute to women, a feminist statement. Prada rarely does press releases, so when she does offer some sentences on her musings and inspirations one knows to take note. Displayed on the wall, in an amongst other posters that riffed on retro movie adverts - but, in their pasted display made me think of wild posting strategies used by grassroots groups to get the word out there - was the paragraph 'Fashion is about the everyday and the everyday is the political stage of our freedoms. For the women's show we have decoded to look at the role than women had in the shaping of modern society, their political participation and social achievements.' Some will read into those seventies inspired looks that may have riffed on Prada’s own wardrobe from her youth, or the set that suggested the bedrooms of earnest teen dreamers and do-gooders. I thought more about the power of clothing. After all, clothing is a central part of the 'everyday' Prada refers to. This collection showed how much surface can communicate - not just political beliefs, but codes about our dreams, sexuality, self-perception and ideals. That much-Instagramed red cocktail dress, modelled by Lindsey Wixson, was certainly a tribute to the power of a knock-out dress in its most traditional form. This collection suggested that the relentless focus on women’s wardrobes and outward appearances should be something reclaimed and seized up as useful. Cynics will see that as an attempt to sell clothes by adopting the language and ideals of a cause. I saw it as a Prada’s way of justifying her own focus and career - she makes clothes, not speeches. But she proved today that clothes, especially those worn by women, can say so much.