Miuccia Prada is on a cinematic high. Watching the narrative from Prada's A/W 16 menswear show continue, it’s as if we have been invited to peer back through a magical telescope - onto the deck of a great ship, this time just full of great women. The dark mysterious show space, full of rows of wooden railings, was inspired by the traditional public stages where ceremonies are held. But seriously, what’s location, when you are invited into such a metaphysical dream world? It’s yours to imagine.
We all know Miuccia is a feminist, but one thing is clear: she has never wanted a woman to be anything other than a woman. Yes, she has knocked out some cracking trouser suits in her time, but she is loyal to one garment above all: skirts. Ten years ago, she even put on an exhibition about them, entitled 'Waist Down'. This season, the skirt celebrated the power of these women. They – and the skirts – were magnificent. We may have seen diaries, keys and precious trinkets strapped to their necks and waists, but underneath their skirts one imagines knives and secret maps strapped to thighs. The models grabbed bags by their straps, clutching them like sacks, whilst shorter strapped cross body bags were high and close to the waist. The idea of keeping your hand on your purse rang true here; this collection had an uneasy feel about it – and was filmic and melancholic. Era-wise, it was difficult to place. The decade-remixers Lagerfeld and Jacobs might be the best – but Prada is better. Like a film director, Miuccia slips though the passages of time, and creates a window into a new world. A couple of key references that might be worth bearing in mind are Vivienne Westwood’s Pirates collection of 1981 (those argyle tights were the deal breaker), and Christian Dior’s 1947 collection, entitled 'the New Look'. The latter reference is the most iconic post-war fashion collection in fashion history, heralding a return to optimism and opulence. Prada’s mood might be introspective here, but she knows the design short hand to ensure women feel glamourous – whether there is a war going on or not. Make of that what you will.
After first sighting these women within Menswear A/W 2016, here the opulence returns with gold brocade dresses. So rich, so divine. Miuccia pretty much owns the colour gold, doesn’t she? Silver is hardly ever good enough for her. This time around it hinted at the precious gold pieces, that women had tied in purses under their skirts. These girls are streetwise to know, there’s always another hiding place, other than your handbag! Pre-Raphaelite inflected dresses worn with toe-cap Munster style boots added a sinister gothic bend to such beauty. These women are fragile but will fight to survive.
To accompany the collection, there is the Nature of Women project. Here, you’ll see that the same artist who did the illustrations for the show’s prints (Christoph Chemin), has also worked with the house on a set of visual musings around the complexity of women – and the changing times within world history. The show notes help explain the rationale behind the otherwordly landscapes – which incidentally also included Egyptian statues – as well as the bramble thick velvet floral dresses. It looks like Prada was attempting something even greater than what we see at first glance. Miuccia described a woman’s complexity this season as being 'like that of a Russian doll' – but so are her collections. That’s it - the woman IS the collection. Makes utter (surrealist) sense!
Looking at the show notes, the collection was enabling Miuccia and Chemin to visually narrate one particular moment in time: when the French Revolutionaries decided to adopt the old Egyptian calendar. So, that’s what all the prints of statues are about. But there’s more. The Egyptians gave each month of the year, a name inspired by nature. All feminine names, they included names such as Germinal, Frimaire, Prairial and Messidor. That will be what all the drowning Ophelia dresses were also about – with the girls covered in flowers, and their hair river wet. Describing the connection between women and nature as 'simply poetry', Prada is celebrating the feminine power that woman once also held over time. Without wanting to get too Earth Mother on us all - yet I make no apologies - let's not forget that it is still women who are intrinsically connected to the monthly rhythms of our world. No calendar name will ever change that.
Alas, it wasn’t just the show set, or some of the looks, which crossed over with the A/W 16 menswear collection - some of the music set list did well. Nick Cave’s 'Wild Rose' track may have been missing this time, but we had our very own.