Miuccia Prada is wise. Her 40 years as fashion’s matriarch seems to have led her to a resolute form of hindsight. Not a fence-sitter, however, more as a calm mediator who sees both sides of the story. Her autumn winter ’19 show last night, entitled ‘Anatomy of Romance’, was a didactic exploration of opposition, rooted in the raw human experience of matters of the heart. That enigmatic ether where one moment can be blindingly rosy and the next blanketed by bleak.
Before the show, Ms. Prada explained her Yoda position, “It’s a sort of will, a need to narrate the good and the bad together, which kind of corresponds with our times.” Designers mostly anchor themselves to one or the other. Either they’re motivated by peril and injustice or they sustain traditional escapism. Well, this collection made its romantic escape but has done so through a tunnel of darkness.
The spot-lit runway today was made ambient through simple floor lights that, at a squint, could have been ominous rows of cathedral candles. Immediately, the collection delivered romantic scorn, perhaps in visions of before and after. Wednesday Adams-plaits on more than a few gothic-clad models (complete with bleached brows and sullen expressions) greeted viewers with immediate character, cementing the dichotomy of ingenue whimsy versus deep-set angst. And there was a scholarly heartbeat throughout, too. Heavy-soled boots, creepers and lace-ups, deviating from their usual mod connotation, drew looks back to a kind of school uniformity. For when does one feel more of the heaven and hell of romance than that of teenage years?
The teasers for the show were a series of screaming videos depicting pink-stained lilies being set to electrocution – a decimation of ‘pretty’. And this rang true throughout the collection. Chic coats and tunics decorated by signature Prada blooms (some bursting from their garments in tactile corsagery), tailored coat suits and capelet vests in equine-rich woollens were smacked by the clunkiest of footwear. The hardiness to this collection posed as a threat to the delicate laces and ruby-red satins that danced throughout. A few lyrical dresses rotated the runway, but before their fragility got comfortable, a sea of muscled-up nylon khakis stormed in. Robust vests, skirts and jackets delivered literal and lateral protection with street-wear precision. There was Amelia Earheart aviation nods (the shearling-collared jackets were particularly wearable) and a deep guerrilla sensibility. Bags, too, trended from the linear to heavy, pocketed carry-alls.
Even without Ms. Prada’s vocalised introspection, turmoil in the form of whimsy vs disenchantment, hope vs destitute and romance vs retribution was wistfully clear. The music flailed between hard beats and symphonic sweetness, too. Then, in a fundamental expression of her message, Cara Delevigne appeared defiant in a layered satin slip dress with a screened image of Frankenstein and his bride. Romance: both tragic and beautiful.
Miuccia Prada’s consciousness this season is apt given the current social climate (and her own company’s racial controversy of late). And upon grappling with Karl Largefeld’s legacy, she took to his controversial “work and shut up” mantra for the fashion industry. “This is a job with a double face” the director noted today, in a way that seemed both responsible and forgiving. Accepting something can be two sides of the coin is a diplomatic take on empowerment, but then, when fashion and politics begin to collide diplomacy is a refined position to take.