Not just a muse, the female is the main protagonist in our world. This is Miuccia Prada's feminist memo for S/S 17.
As an audience member, one was faced with not only a runway show, but a preview of Prada's soon-to-be-released film, co-directed by Mrs Prada herself and Academy Award nominated director of American Hustle, David O. Russell. Simultaneously watching both was like pulling a double shift. The general theme of both show and film was also a juggling act of sorts. Women within the film incorporated the working woman, lover, investigator, traveller and friend. Haphazardly edited scenes showed clips of women putting on stilettos, storming up escalators, applying face packs, getting their nails done, having a love affair, stalking an enemy. A rather stressful film noir portrayal of the contemporary anxieties, which run through our collective unconscious, was accompanied by a catwalk curated with women wearing swimwear on top of shirts – and theatrical ostrich feathers draped over office-ready pleated skirts. The librarian, the female astronaut, the commuter, the 'other' woman. Female archetypes from Prada's canon - and life itself - boarded a flight or spaceship from a terminal of sorts. Clutching Formica printed handbags, flat like kitchen tiles, Miuccia's eponymous mid 20th century housewife also walked towards the boarding gate.
The Cheongasam style all-in-ones reminded one not only of communist leaning Chinese feminists, but Chinese airline stewardesses – and nightclub hostesses in less than salubrious hotels. Sexy, perverse, othering and chic, Miuccia's saw no reason why she couldn't also trim these with marabou feathers.
Miuccia's ability to decade mix - and remix - her favourite combinations is second to none. The best in the industry. There simply isn't enough time to go through all the clothes and the links here - and maybe that is what these overloaded, highly referenced, looks are about: time. Or apparent lack of it. Rei Kawakubo has previously explored this idea of 'crushing' in her work at Comme des Garçons, literally squishing together lots of her collections, as a form of commentary on the fashion system - and the pace of life itself.
Within the film, entitled Past Forward, the characters are meant to be 'elements of a complex collage' as 'the viewer is left to decode what is experience, what is memory, what is dream, and discern the overlap and the difference between them'. It was seemingly the same with the total looks here, all comprising of Prada designs from the past, present and future.
Prada artfully shows us all how dressing in a rush can look beautiful - in her hands - and that it is possible to wear two or three outfits to the airport, when she is your traveling companion. Velcro fastenings and space race badges spoke of speed, whilst crystal embellishments and princess necklines, created by opera wrapping pinafores, shirting and turtle necks, spoke of a more refined pace of life.
Just as there were connections, there were disconnects too. I spent a good 30 seconds watching a scene in the film, of a woman just washing her face, when I suddenly remembered I needed to check back in with the clothes on the runway. With the film playing square in front of the audience, was Prada confronting us with our addiction to screen time? The aforementioned woman on screen wasn't actually washing her face at all, as she wasn't even touching her skin. Another literal disconnection. Miming the action with her hands, she was like a surrealist mannequin. Incidentally, this actress - who received a large proportion of screen time - was black. However, on the runway, the whitewashed casting saw this airport full of mostly Aryan travellers. Another disconnect. Miuccia Prada does well to represent diversity in her films - her Miu Miu film, The Door, by Ava Devurnay, a fine example. But it never seems to fully make its way into the runway show.
As 2016 sees the year close on what was the centenary anniversary of Dadaism - the precursor to punk - Prada attempts to place her brand at the apex of art and life. For Dadaists, life was a collage - and so was this collection. It was a collage made up of Prada itself.