On the final day of a week of Paris shows that saw designers asserting their identities, yet at the same time pushing themselves and going against the grain, we come to the one who is always doing this: Miuccia Prada.
In the Miu Miu collection she showed today, she did not disappoint. It was the companion piece to her Prada presentation, in its rebellious view of femininity, yet here, it was the clichés and classics of the feminine that were explored and presented as perverse. "Anything that is classic, a repeat in history, a genre of woman or clothes that always comes about," defined the designer after her show. "Classics, classics of trash, classics of chic, classics of the good girl, classics of the bad girl."
These classics ran from the children's coat scaled for the grown woman to the bugle-beaded bustier of the showgirl. "There is the showgirl, Cher. The use of something so trendy now, like that classic cut of a sixties coat, the eighties balloon dress, mixing them all at once," Prada said. Pretty and perverse happened simultaneously, with immaculate wool coats and thick vinyl skirts in off-pastel shades against vivid thick wool tights, the kind that children wear, and boiled sweet Mary Janes. Mischievously sick. A bit like Courtney Love's "kinder whore" period but pristine, taken to the nth degree, with none of the grunge nostalgia. Of course, Love's femininity is yet another classic archetype on repeat.
In the spectacularly transformed Palais
d'Iéna—altered again by Rem Koolhaas' OMA—different kinds of interior worlds stood for these versions of femininity all at once. They ranged from the children's room, with its pussycat wallpaper—a design to be found on jacquards, prints, and embroideries on both clothes and boots—to the classic Milanese parquet flooring, Perspex seating, and shelving—echoed in the chokers worn by the models—to the gigantic Panton chandelier.
"I asked myself, What is classic? Why does it become classic?" explained Prada. "People think that it is romance, but that's not it—it is something instinctive. Why do women like pink and bows? I am always very intrigued by what attracts people so much."
Prada enjoys presenting something slightly off. Underneath a candy coating there is often a lurking sense of something wrong. She is frequently hailed as the intellectual fashion designer—but this is almost damning and marginalizing for someone who enjoys slipping infectious ideas into the mainstream and ultimately works so brilliantly on instinct. Her aim is always to connect to her audience on an immediate level. That's why what she presents registers with people so readily, not only in the mind but in the gut as well, with a slight current of sickness and misapprehension underneath. That attraction and repulsion makes her output even more seductive, of course. Prada anticipates, giving people what they want—but not what they think they want.