Prada Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Women’s Show

Miuccia Prada is far too smart to mistake herself for a politician. “I don’t want to be political. Not officially political. When people ask that, I say no; in my work, I am not in the right position,” she said that backstage, her eyes glinting and her shoulders rising in a huge Italian shrug. But then she laughed conspiratorially: “I have to . . . sneak it in.” Let the decoding and deciphering of her Prada-sphere rest here a moment. One look at the pictures, and it’s plain to see: For all its complexity, Fall 2017 is a quintessentially multicolored, ostrich-feathered, crystal-fringed Prada humdinger of a collection.

It started somewhere in the late ’60s, early ’70s, perhaps, with hip corduroy flares, hand-knitted scarves, Baker Boy hats and patchwork leather and snakeskin coats. It moved on through all the curvy sex-bomb tropes of the ’50s, in a fuzzy, embroidered-angora sweater girl kind of way—who better than Lindsey Wixson to sashay a tight, red, in-and-out cocktail number with a whoosh in the hem? Turquoise and coral ostrich feather flew on hemlines; crystal fringing swished from flesh-colored lingerie nylon. And, this being Prada, there were coats all the while. Tweed-checked utilitarian ones; the fully print-and-fur elaborate ones. In other words, precisely how Miuccia Prada dresses.

Then it sank in: Was this some kind of autobiography—a reflection on how far she, Miuccia Prada, has come since she was a student, a girl who was about to get wrapped up for a time in the left-wing Italian politics of the ’70s? In the roiling chaos of the backstage interview, Prada made a remark about hearing an “old feminist” who said something to the effect of “Here we are again.” Not hard to relate that to the image of the American woman whose recently written placard has gone viral. I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.

We all recognise that, don’t we?

In Prada’s space, the immersive environment she creates every season out of her industrial headquarters, she prepares her audience by stealth. This season’s scenario, she said, was triggered by the Federico Fellini movie, City of Women. “But not the content, just the title.” So there were pretend-movie posters—and illustrated pinups of ’50s and ’60s femmes fatales on the walls. Lower down, where the audience groped its way to its seats in the dark, there was a set evoking a teenage dorm to sit amongst.

We’ve all been there, in that place of youthful idealism and uncertainty—is that what Miuccia Prada was saying? Does she think we need to go back and regroup before we go forward, or learn about women from an older generation, and grab their support? All the signposts were in the not-quite-right movie-posters pasted on the walls. A quick internet search on their meanings proved salutory. Desert Rose: the title of Coretta Scott King’s biography by her sister Edythe Scott Bagley. The Glass Cage: the title of a book by Nicholas Carr, laying out the grim scenarios around how computers are changing our brains.

Near the mouth of the runway, came Miuccia’s most straightforward poster-form declaration: “Continuous Interior, Prada 2017,” it read. “We have decided to look at the role women had in the shaping of modern society, their political participation and social achievements.” The continuous interior? Obviously, the lifelong, non-abating, sometimes self-lacerating conversations we women have with ourselves; the progress and the set-backs. Where are we now? Well, Miuccia Prada only asks us the questions.

Still: The one issue which she repeatedly sets herself about—the politics of seduction—is now certain to infiltrate the wardrobes of all Prada devotees. As part of her big movie-night out for Fall 2017, she commissioned original poster-art of glam fantasy women by the illustrator Robert E. McGinnis which appeared on a series of skirts and T-shirts. McGinnis made ’60s posters for Bond movies, Barbarella, and much else that passed into popular culture. At one time, his style was regarded as part and parcel of the sexist patriarchy. Now, Miuccia Prada is not so sure. “They are so glamorous,” she said, sotto voce, “But they have guns.”

by Sarah Mower

Prada Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Women’s Show