I always wonder about how history will stay relevant; in the way that we learn it, how it is presented and what we remember. The nostalgia of the times (Interestingly, there is a hearkening obituary to Time Magazine in the summer edition of PORT Magazine). Mostly, the serious stuff are confined to the class and the lighter, cultural elements are expanded for all to see. Both presented, mostly in movies and sometimes in writing, beautifully. No better country has done this than America. You would think that Miuccia Prada would challenge this, flip the usual on its head and bring a new perspective for example. She has, but has done so much more in transforming the strong, minimalist power of previous seasons into an all-encompassing, elements exciting, interesting, and forgotten into a lesson in colour, tone and production to create a “menacing paradise”, so beautiful it hurts.
The overarching theme was of a balmy summer in wartime America with bits referring to notable events that took place during many of the wars that beared America’s involvement. The set was full of tropical colours mixed to look landscapes, but on closer inspection these landscapes were barren and colours subtly clashing (the best kind of course) with helicopters in the red sky above in the background. Hawaii was at the epicentre of the collection’s visual agenda, with the most beautiful prints and loose, yet confident cuts of jacket and trouser. The gangster who walked down the runway seemed to be holidaying, oblivious to most atrocities, with the most nonchalant clothes and feel possible that worked a lot of ways to soften the image of an America at war and also to lull the onlooker into longing and nostalgia. All the members of the SHOWStudio panel, including the legend that is Hilary Alexander, were fawning over everything and quite rightfully so, as the colours of terracotta, burgundy, burnt and bright yellows, reds and oranges were masterfully arranged into patterns and prints that seemed to romanticise the WWII era.
I don’t think the romanticism was romantic at all, and think it was challenging its manifestation of ideas. Some of the items have been made beautiful as if to directly comment on the beauty in destruction, thereby producing riffs of ugliness that she is known for throughout her aesthetic. The look worn by Clement Chabernaud with the short-sleeve jacquard knit of a red sunset atop a blue sea layered over a shirt and shown will full-cut trousers seemed to be taken from a still of Apocalyse Now or a Pearl Harbour after the devastating attack. Charlie Porter took some quick pictures backstage, and so did Prada.
The clothes got deeper as the collection went on, though I think each piece is representative of the idea and of the beauty, like how most of the prints had a black backdrop that made them stand out and also darker both in theme and feel. One gorgeous jacket that had coral tones to match the marine life of the island had a nude lady drawn onto or made of the sunset landscape. Another blouson and case had amongst the foliage, a hula girl playing the ukelele. Usually Hawaiian shirts are just foliage and I think here Mrs. Prada is referring to the objectification of women by men in American history, or maybe even now as the models wear it. She recently said in an interview with T Magazine, “I am trying to work out which images of the female I want to analyze. I’m not really interested in clothes or style.” I think this applies to men also, in the world past and present, with the conflicted feminism of these items.
Most of the silhouettes evoked 1940’s menswear, especially the full cut trousers and pinstripe suits, though the ideas and presentation of these themes inhabited its own time immemorial due to the easy vibe of the clothes and the archetypal dapper gentlemen. How the clothes were styled to be for sunset, again typically beautiful, with a luxe louche feel to the silks, functional trainers and generous shoulder cuts of the bonded jackets. The distinction between outerwear and shirts was slightly blurred by ribbing at the bottom of each shirt, like those of baseball jackets and the stiff collars of the jackets with cuffs rolled, like shirts. These could be worn as both, tantalising to buyers I am sure.
There were a lot of options for separate pieces, especially where the pinstripe looks are concerned. This is the element most attune to 1940’s mens fashion and is usually seen on stuffy bankers and estate agents today. The seriousness it connotes was totally destroyed in the subtle variations of colour between thin line and thick stripe, with a double-breasted dark pink and teal blazer paired with brown trousers in the first look. On closer inspection, you can see that the thicknesses of the do not match in both garments. I really loved the styling, the polos over shirts, knits over shirts; that all gave a taste of personality while being utterly sublime in their casual sophistication.
The selling power was further pushed by the few women’s looks that made up 30% of a menswear collection. Mostly embellished dresses, cut in contrasting colours and prints with ruching around the waist or bust, combined with flat trainers or baseball boots and small handbags evoked a companion to the male American psyche of a nostalgic feminism. Nostalgia for a time without separates with a modern interpretation of sneakers with socks, which is at odds with Cathy Horyn’s tweet of ‘Naive Prada, American nostalgia, no aspirations only longing’. These looks were really successful in adding the lifestyle that Mrs. Prada is dually critiquing and selling to us.
Prada has mastered the two main industries of fashion in this collection; the commercial savviness, she has said on fashion “Mine is not an artistic world, it is a commercial world. I cannot change the rules.” in crafting beautiful clothes that I want, all men and women of all ages can wear and cherish. But also the more pressing, and intelligent part of fashion in the artistic expression that requires a second look and some thought. She took many different elements, important times in American history and metamorphosing them into clothes. She questioned the calm of summer while presenting in a wholly, recognisable way (Only two shorts, guys). Mrs. Prada encapsulated oxymoronic happiness with actions of the past in a charged and electric. What else are we to do but buy the manbags? Or go to Rokit and pilfer their Hawaiian shirt section.
I will post the full video of the collection as soon as it is on YouTube, as some of the style.com photos are crummy compared to the NOWFASHION ones which have the annoying watermark, but it is on loop on the Prada website.
Watching the livestream gave me a calm, serene lightness though the style.com stills made the details somewhat clear and the analysing easier.
SHOWStudio’s twitter feed for some good quotes on the show