Miuccia Prada has built a multimillion-euro business on confounding expectations. Her autumn/winter 2015 Prada on Thursday was no exception.
If anything, Prada’s many fans suspected this collection would be sombre and unisex. That was the flavour of the brand’s menswear presentation in January, which featured an even split of male and female models and was described as “the first part of the autumn/winter 2015 fashion show”. This, then, was to be the second part.
In fact, it was an excessively feminine show. Models were all female and wore suits in fondant fancy colours styled with long, princessy leather gloves. Dresses were empire line and decorated with bows.
Models’ high ponytails recalled Grace Kelly’s regal up dos; a repeated flower motif appeared as a hair clip and as brooches. From dress coats to low “v” backless tops to strappy dresses, the silhouette felt like a futuristic take on the 1960s, thanks in part to the use of a fabric that Mrs Prada afterwards described as a “type of jersey”, which gave the clothes a flat Jetsons texture.
A repeated pattern, which Prada explained was a magnified digital print of a molecule, added to this futuristic sense. So, too, did the set, which had the corrugated steel and antechambers of a spaceship.
There were plenty of typically Prada twists. As well as two-tone Mary Jane sandals that look certain to set tills ringing, many of the shoes were outright ugly – tight rubbery knee-high boots with thick, contrasting soles that squeaked as models walked – and the colour combinations (a chartreuse dress over a lime green shirt with Barbie pink cuffs appeared paired with a bottle green jumper) often went beyond beautiful to downright weird.
Backstage, Prada wore a low key uniform-like outfit – a black kilt and matching blazer with epaulettes over a crisp white shirt – with last season’s skyscraper-inspired gold wedge heels.
With typical ambiguity she said that the collection had three titles: “soft pop”, “variation on beauty” and a sense of being “about thinking” rather than “about a fantasy”.
It was full of references to “real and fake,” and was also about “impossible beauty and the cliche of what women like.” Yes, there were princesses on the catwalk, she said, “but I hope there was irony there”.
Prada’s shows are famous for setting the agenda in fashion, so trend-watchers will keenly note this vision of heightened femininity. Hemline geeks will be aware, too, that her skirt-lengths were just above the knee – a fresh approach in a sea of mini and midi skirts – while trousers were awkward kick flares cut above models’ ankles.
One thing’s for certain – from the bags the models carried, in a variety of shapes, to sunglasses, costume jewellery and layers of knitwear over shirts – there was plenty to buy at a variety of price points.
This comes just a week after Prada announced a 1% fall in sales in 2014, following stellar growth of 9% and 29% in 2013 and 2012. Thursday’s bright, attention-grabbing, commercial but unexpected and brainy collection is the kind of solution a complex brand like Prada is looking for.
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