A play of contrasts between banal garment archetypes and subtle extravagance, the collection was a testament to the sharpness of Mrs Prada's vision.
Miuccia Prada is fashion’s premiere philosopher. Often, her design process is less about toying with fabric or collecting images, but rather about the very act of thinking about how clothes can reflect a cultural mood, informed by her thinking and reading about design, art, news, even fashion. This summer, she must have been thinking a lot about where we’re headed, and just like the rest of us, trying to make sense of doomsday financial forecasts. “This is not an easy moment to create fashion,” she wrote in the show notes accompanying her SS23 Miu Miu show. “For this collection, I wanted to explore the purpose of fashion, its reason. Its usefulness in society and in culture today.”
The show opened with layers of greige cotton jersey t-shirts — perhaps the most banal form of clothing — clinging to the body. And yet they were anything but basic. Instead, they hinted at hidden depths, something simple being worn to be decorative, piles of layers still somehow appearing skimpy without showing much skin beyond bare legs. They were followed by gossamer nylon dresses and coats with drawstrings, bandeaus fastened by plastic clip buckles, skirts secured around the waist by lo-fi straps of nylon, and bulbous, boxy-pocketed waistbands that suggested utilitarian functionality. Silk linings of cashmere blazers were ripped apart to be visible from beneath the hems, while the zipped-up backs of shrunken sweaters were left open to reveal Miu Miu-labelled folds of fabric framing the napes of necks.
Throughout, there were elements of the deconstructed rawness that she has been exploring both in recent seasons of Miu Miu (think of the slashed, frayed hems of that notorious Miu Miu set) or the paper-like fabrics in the Prada collection she showed the other week. It taps into the simplicity — austerity even — that has transfixed Mrs P of late, and feels increasingly apt for the times. After all, she is a designer who has been around long enough to read the room and dial back frivolity when needed. Perhaps the most ostentatious element of the show was the casting: FKA Twigs, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski all walked the show, which took place in an immersive set designed by Chinese-born, Berlin-based artist Shuang Li.
“I am not anti-luxury, but I am anti-ostentation,” she continued in her notes, echoing Coco Chanel’s maxim that “luxury is not the opposite of poverty — it’s the opposite of vulgarity.” The collection was marked by its humble fabrics and inconspicuous palette — stone-washed denim tailoring, navy school-uniform knitwear, ostensibly faded leathers and a significant amount of sombre black — but there were occasional jolts of neon leather boots, as well as restrained smatterings of crystals and beads on some of those jerseys, and all-out embellishment on a couple of sorbet-coloured chiffon tees and skirts. You get the sense that she just can’t help herself — that she might be relishing in the contradictions of austere uniforms and extravagant surface-level frosting (she did just name her latest Prada fragrance ‘Paradoxe’, after all). Or maybe it’s just that she understands that sometimes a little bit of surface-level extravagance goes a long way, just like seasoning a classic risotto.
“I am interested in the notion of translation - how to translate a feeling, a mood, a concept, into an object,” Mrs P continued. “This collection is about fashion born from reality, and born for reality, to be placed back into that context. Because times are difficult, it does not mean we should not create. But we have to ensure every piece has purpose and reason. This is not a time for meaningless fashion.”