Because she works in fashion, it's easy to forget how political a creature Miuccia Prada has always been. Famously secretary of Milan's Communist party at one point, she is intimate with activism. But her activist impulse has usually found expression in the art world, where she has tirelessly championed the new. Tonight, she continued on that course—bringing in a group of mural artists to decorate the venue—while, at the same time, making a feminist statement that, in the light of the contemporary denigration of the very notion, came across as radical. "I want to inspire women to struggle," she said, after a show that will be hard to beat as the season's high point.
The last time feminism enjoyed any popular currency might have been with the Riot Grrrls in the early nineties. Miuccia picked up on the tribalism of that concept. Her models were girl gangs (coded by hair color and graffitied eyelids); the street/sport element of the collection also had a gang element. And the murals against which the show took place—multi-visions of womanhood—echoed the political street art of L.A., Mexico, and South America. Images from those murals were picked up for use on the clothes and accessories. Oh yes, about those accessories—the most ladylike handbags in recent Prada history. Paired with tube socks and Miuccia's take on Tevas. The disconnect said all you needed to know about the designer's steadfast refusal to work without reference. Trying to draw lines between this and that in the collection was a fool's errand. Likewise, attempting to spot the influence—for instance, the work of mid-century artist Richard Lindner seemed to inform the spectacular color-blocking. But that might merely have been one onlooker's personal predilection.
Nevertheless, there was a strong artistic element in the show. The way the clothes were infected by the mural art energized them. And there was energy in the surprising appearance of Britney Spears on the sound track. (Admittedly, her latest track, "Work Bitch," has the uplifting pulse of the better side of EDM.) The contrast with Prada's men's show in June couldn't have been more striking. Miuccia made her males essentially passive participants in a dreamy, erotic reverie. Today, her women were ready to kick ass and rule.