Distractions and attractions: all the stage is Prada, in Milan.
Miuccia Prada is currently fixated on the performative aspect of fashion. Her latest collection was titled simply “Act II”. Or maybe it wasn’t a title, but more a statement of fact. It linked it immediately to the menswear show she presented in January, implying the two are part of a continuum. The clothes links it too, as did the presence of male and female models.
That was an element many criticised in her menswear show, complaining there were too many female models in too much of her womenswear pre-collection. If they didn’t say it in print, they certainly expressed it verbally. I wonder if any of that reached the top of that Carsten Höller slide where Miuccia Prada’s office sits? If so, I suspect it would only have inclined her to add more male looks to her ostensibly all-woman show.
So if the Prada show’s a stage, and the men and women merely players, what’s the ripple effect across fashion as a whole? Perhaps the return of the truly epic fashion show. Sat in the pit (that’s not a metaphor: my seat was embedded in the middle of the Prada catwalk, a space similar to those occupied by a brass band and a string quartet) I was struck by the fact that, despite the pomp and circumstance of so many Milan shows, no other is staged with quite the awe-inspiring power of Prada.
It made me think back to that Hunter wellies thing in London, where a magician got up and performed silly stuff around perfectly serviceable clothes. It was a distraction. It felt like the clothes were the man behind the curtain in The Wizard Of Oz, the thing the flashy theatrics were trying to distract your attention from.
You don’t get that at Prada. You never got it at Alexander McQueen’s shows, nor John Galliano’s, both designers with a hysteria for histrionics which always seemed justified, unlike that Hunter show.
Most designers, sensibly, don’t try to distract and detract from the clothing on show. Maybe that’s a recognition that their work isn’t quite strong enough to hold our attention while, say, several thousand paper butterflies descend from the ceiling, or a dance marathon gets underway.
Or indeed, while a coffee-table transforms into a skirt. I can’t forget Hussein Chalayan in all of this, he’s a master when it comes to catwalk theatrics. He’s also a master who is still creating those moments. Granted, his shows have been quiet, but there was something subtly spectacular about his spring/summer 2014 show that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. I’m awaiting his latest Paris offering with bated breath.
The point to all this isn’t some “ain’t what it used to be” maudlin epitaph for nineties catwalk razzmatazz. Fashion has moved on. But it was great, at Prada, to be mesmerised. It’s great that Miuccia Prada can hold our attention, and make us hold our breath. It’s a rare talent.
Those are my thoughts, anyway, as we enter the third day of Milan fashion week.Tagged in: autumn/winter 2014, Milan Fashion Week, Prada
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