Fashion shows are known for being rather formal affairs. Guests frequently have gift bags on their seats and/or are served delicate bits of food that are typically rich and filling without risking being too terribly messy. Oh, and then there are drinks, almost always. One needs some alcohol to suffer through some of the shows we see.
None of that was present at this evening’s Prada show. The decor was bare, rather like a steel cage with nothing more than incredibly uncomfortable wire mesh on which to sit. Where models normally roam in and out through the seating, this season they stuck to a runway several feet aware from even the front row guests. In the center of the runway, on five giant screens, played a David O’Russel film created specifically for this collection. The feeling was very detached and isolated.
“Alienated” is what Miuccia Prada named this collection. I can certainly see where she might feel that way. More than any other Italian fashion brand, Prada has taken some significant financial losses over the past twelve months. Specifically, sales to China have fallen through the basement, dramatically impacting the company’s level of operating capital. The past few months have not been very kind.
So how does all this alienation get interpreted into clothing? Apparently through large plaid checks and wearing one’s underwear on the outside. At first glance, it might appear as though Mrs. Prada has joined the flannel craze. That’s not flannel, though. She uses the window-frame print on a variety of fabrics from cotton to silk to cashmere (I think) in various sizes as the base layer for a number of looks. She then overlays that with—underwear. Not that you’re going to actually get any support from those bra-looking things; they’re just fabric, rather like a cropped demi or something similar. Those shorts, though, might get one accused of raiding Grandma’s drawers, assuming Grandma was a bit adventurous. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the high-waisted shorts this season, but Mrs. Prada makes the most use of them. I’m sorry, but the adolescent that is hidden within me still giggles every time.
We expect a little absurdity from a creative mind such as Miuccia’s. There’s almost always a few elements that leave us scratching our heads and this season it was the ostrich feathers, most often around cuffs, occasionally hems, and then at the ankle of several pairs of sandals. If the devil does indeed wear Prada, I want to be there taking pictures when she puts on these feathery sandals. Combine that with rhinestones and other froo-froo and one might do enough head scratching to leave their shoulder covered in dandruff.
Most of this collection feels noticeably scaled back, though. I suppose that might be a stylistic thing. After all, this is a spring/summer collection. Still, one has to wonder if the financial challenges the company is facing forced Mrs. Prada to be a little less adventurous with her styling. This certainly seems like a collection that might have more appeal to the European market than the Chinese. We could hardly blame Mrs. Prada for taking a season or two to build back up sales at the home base.
Still, even pared back, this is an interesting and creative collection with a lot of options to offer. Just make sure Grandma knows those aren’t her underwear.