For the Prada autumn/winter 2018 collection, the well-shod models wore heels, boots, and galoshes with cut-off, toggle-secured shoe covers usually seen in contamination-free environments. These girls, it seemed, were going somewhere that needed to be super clean.
This idea of an additional layer of protection was also extended to the clothes, although they were not as obvious as what were seen at ground-level. Some dresses, for example came with sheer outer layers, as if to protect the wearer from incident, contaminant-irrigated or not. And some outerwear looked up-cycled from suits destined for chemical warfare. (Thankfully, nothing as macabre as Gucci’s body bag!)
And the colours: They seemed to warn of unsafe conditions further on. Even a few of the prints looked acid-ruined. This is Prada in pre-apocalyptic, post-#metoo mode. This is Prada shielding and protecting against a world still awash with uncertainty and populated with sexual predators. And what better hues than danger-ahead neons?
The Prada world has always been an alternative one, but it isn’t an alternative universe. It shares our troubles, our intimidations, our humiliations. Miuccia Prada is the Creative Commander-in-Chief of that world. And she knows how to protect her people against the threats of that sphere. She gives them a protective layer for both feet and body, and everything else in between that can empower.
These could be clothes to dress the staff of the high-security government lab in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (perhaps not cleaner Elisa and her colleagues, but certainly the likes of Colonal Richard Strickland’s secretary Sally). Or, if we were to look back a year earlier, the NASA-employed women of Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures. Ms Prada’s predilection for uniform-like clothes of man-made fabrics in lab-like or retro-sci-fi, even manga-cute, environs is not new. This time, she’s made them more evident, complete with staff security ID, clipped conspicuously to chests.
But, as usual, nothing Ms Prada proposes is as straightforward as they seem. Amid the somewhat strict attire and possibly man-repelling layering, there was much feminine flourish, as if in the corridors of secret government projects, one can still succumb to the lure of fashion; in some cases—embroidered and beaded overlay—to offer pre-cocktail allure. Beneath the hard-to-figure-out mix of hard and soft, textured and sheer, twisted and flat, Ms Prada was still able to underscore the confidence that clothing can protect against the elements, contagion, and unwanted advances.
The thought on hazardous contamination was momentarily disrupted by the appearance of Amber Valletta, a blast from the past in a coat with a print that suggested galactic bangs and bursts. Ms Valletta did not look out of place in Prada’s hallway of germ-battling, science-big, fashion-proud clout-on-show. And the 44-year-old certainly did not look any less confident and attractive than much younger entrants to the Prada world, such as the babyish Kaia Gerber. And that, for many of us, is the irrepressible appeal of Miuccia Prada: inconspicuous feminism with stupendous reach.