Night – “the danger of the night for women brave and courageous enough to go out,’’ said Miuccia Prada, as models in hi-vis clothing, prettied up with tulle and bows, disappeared into the darkness.
Except that this space, a four-storey tramp up the newly opened tower in Milan’s Fondazione Prada, was never quite dark. For outside the windows was an apocalyptic vision of an industrial wasteland, with chirpy, neon plastic birds and a drone recording what was going on inside the building – though not inside Miuccia’s head.
It was hard to grasp just what the designer was trying to say with this eerie, discomforting collection in vividly shaded protection clothing. Some pieces, like a nylon bust wrap with the traditional Prada triangle logo, looked like nothing less than the inventive Prada bags from the 1980s. The bustier was worn over a dress so eye-popping in its digital flower pattern that it glowed eerily, even in the half-light.
Other garments had what looked like an identity tag as an accessory to a colorful silken bodice. In contrast to these utilitarian clothes and accessories, lower legs were dressed in sheer black nylon socks with ruches of plastic ‘tulle’ round the ankles.
Prada has a long fashion history of playing with male/female stereotypes such as sport versus flowers, or industrial material set against chiffon. Perversity is Miuccia’s stock-in-trade. The acid colors and the day-glo accessories seemed such unlikely partners with Prada’s sleek tailoring. Those linear creations were punctuated by girlie pieces: a flower pattern here or a ruched plastic ankle there.
“I loved the masculine touch of the show; the body silhouettes were fantastic, the acid tones and colors. For me, it is the coolest thing I have seen in long time,” said Rita Ora. The Hot Right Now performing artist was looking out of the wide window where a circling drone appeared to be filming the events of this dark night.
What was missing from the strange experience was how the clothes fitted into the Prada world. Protection was clearly a part of it, for anything from a surfer-style zippered top and trousers in orange and shocking pink nylon to a day-glo green dress with feathery fibers.
But what exactly were these clothes resisting? Why would a woman facing off male aggression wear a frilly top and a veiled dress covered with super-bright flowers, like a swarm of locusts?
These are questions you do not ask of artists, who are expressing their deepest thoughts and feelings. But clothes are clothes, even presented in a hyper-artistic way in that extraordinary, revamped tower. In the stores, the eclectic pieces, taken apart, will seem much less eerie. For in the end, art is art. And mixing two strands of her life and interests together may not have given quite the right impression of Miuccia Prada’s fashion collection.