As seen in a previous post about Prada's A/W 2016 menswear and Pre-Fall 2016 collections, the fashion house constructed via these designs a long and multi-layered story. Yesterday afternoon Miuccia Prada added to it another chapter with the A/W 2016 womenswear collection.
The designer kept unchanged the set on which she showed the above-mentioned collections, letting her models walk along the multi-levelled chipboard panels that recreated a town square (suspended between De Chirico's mysterious squares and M.C. Escher's illusions) where people of different social status and backgrounds meet.
Like the models on the menswear runway, Miuccia's girls accessorised their looks with sailors' hats and, like in that collection, tailored navy jackets, naval capes and peacoats prevailed, at times matched with frayed knits and multi-coloured knitted patchwork cardigans.
In a similar way to the menswear collection, garments were decorated with prints of surreal and disturbing images by French artist, illustrator, writer, director and porn actor Christophe Chemin (his tables with fruits; wild animals, mythical beasts, weird creatures and dinosaurs trapped in a concrete jungle; and Cleopatra kissing a Marine).
There were also differences, though: white canvas corsets were used instead of belts and worn over rigorously cut coats; there were tailored jackets with fur sleeves and luscious fur capes.
Further additions included plenty of wearable '50s-style skirts and dresses in rich gilded brocaded fabrics and midnight blue or dark brown velvet dresses borrowed from the '40s and decorated with gold embroideries (note: the velvet sheath dresses with deflated velvet shoulders or shoulder pieces may start a trend).
Utility workwear was also another new entry compared to the menswear collection: in this case there were more nylon and quilted jacket liners while large utilitarian zipped pockets were applied on skirts and practical jackets.
Heavy trekking shoes borrowed from early skiing boots were also matched with many of the looks, at times creating contrasts and juxtapositions with light and floral dresses.
In quite a few cases Chemin's prints were chopped, spliced and used to create fabric collages, so his illustrations were mixed with the thick and ornate golden brocade jacquards.
One print of vividly coloured cactuses growing on tomato red rocks on a dark blue background called to mind Superstudio's surreal collages showing their Supersurface, a connection that wouldn't be too far out since Prada likes art and architectural references and her favourite architect, Rem Koolhaas is a fan of Superstudio.
There were also a few prints of six French words - among them "Vendémiaire", "Germinal" and "Floréal" - each of them hinting at a month in the Republican Calendar introduced during the French Revolution, when the reordering of the calendar meant that every month was given a feminine name.
The sailors' hats and canvas corset belts weren't the only accessories: there were also woolly argyle tights; knitted elbow-length gloves (at times decorated with anchors); velvet and leather handbags; necklaces with keys, anchors, a stylised mermaid kissing a fish and leather-bound padlocked almanacks and books, the same bits and pieces were also hanging from leather key chains (seen also at the menswear show), that could be interpreted as modern versions of the classic chatelaine.
As a whole this collection was a constant juxtaposition of two moods, the rich (luscious furs, golden brocades, soft velvets) and the poor (canvas, thick socks and trekking shoes).
The mood was again doomed and melancholic as in the menswear collection, with one main difference: Miuccia's sailors had been on a long sea journey (and some critics spotted in that collection references to the vast expanses of water crossed by migrants to find a new hope and a better life); her emotionally shipwrecked women decided to wear the entire contents of their wardrobes casually adding one layer after the next, and then went off on a journey that took them to venture themselves in the real world (see the trekking boots) or just led them to explore their own soul.
Just when you thought that the final message about Miuccia's women was more or less this one and that she was once again using sailors' hats and a chateilane as fashion allegories to hint at flotation devices and at the status of a powerful woman in a household juggling multi-taslking duties (by the way, it's not rare to find in archives such as the Met Museum's marine-themed chatelaines shaped like an octopus that combined quality, functionality and aesthetics, so maybe Miuccia found the inspiration for this modern accessory in these vintage pieces), you had an epiphany moment.
The current fashion calendar is messed up and under scrutiny and the names of the French months scribbled on the white strips applied on the garments looked like the dedications written on ribbons applied to floral funeral wreaths in Italy.
Besides, the links with the A/W 16 menswear collection were also very symbolical: Mrs Prada was probably taking the piss out of calendars, seasons, the fast fashion rhythms and our collective obsession with digital devices (we have seen more than one smartphone cover/bag on other runways and in showrooms, but here we had notebooks instead...), reminding us that when an idea is valid (layered style, strong outerwear, key accessories...), it remains salable if it is presented in January, digested at the end of February and made available six months later.
Taking it slow is therefore the key: just write it down in your secret diary that will be hanging from your personal chatelaine come the next Autumn/Winter season, and add a final note in your almanack, the anchor is not just a nautical symbol, but it also represents hope. In the fashion industry? In the fashion calendar? In life in general? Well, that's for Miuccia to know and you to find out.
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