Prada Fashion Show at Milan Fashion Week - Fall/Winter 2020/2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection
“We can be strong and feminine at the same time…women carry the weight now.” Backstage tonight Miuccia Prada was insistent: Delicacy and frivolity are not antithetical to power. The spectacular necklaces and earrings the designer wore with a simple crewneck sweater and tapered silk pants as the fashion press crowded in to get their quotes drove her point home: She was bejeweled but in command.
On the runway, Prada’s personal diamonds and precious gems were replaced by silk fringe and jet beads. These “clichés of femininity,” as she described them, accompanied pieces traditionally considered masculine. A boxy belted jacket was paired with a fringed skirt, while classic bib-front shirts were glammed up with skeins of crystals suspended from the shoulders. Basketball jerseys, another signifier of unbridled testosterone, got a similar treatment, elongated to the knee and then accessorized with yet more ropes of beads and sneaker-boot hybrids.
Arguably, this “femininity equals strength” equation has been essential to Prada’s project all along. To her devotees, the Miuccia-isms we saw on this season’s runway—the jet beading, the embroidered car wash skirts, the sheer tulle layers, even the lotus-flower prints that she said nodded at the Viennese Secession movement—function as talismans. Or call them feminine armor. They confer confidence and act as badges of cool.
As ever, Prada can be depended on to connect with our cultural moment, and to synthesize where women are at. But as obvious as all this sounds, outside the Pradasphere and our industry more generally, her theory of femininity is more problematic. Consider the remaining female Democratic candidates for the U.S. presidency, who have abdicated all interest in fashion. For what? Fear that it would be trivializing? That it would weaken their candidacies? Prada, for her part, sees glamour as “something that makes you optimistic, that lifts you up.” It’s tempting to wonder: If Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar thought like Prada, even in the slightest, where would they be now? Also, where’s Kamala Harris when you need her?
The centerpiece of the show, which was staged in a recessed “plaza” built into the basement of the Fondazione Prada, was a representation of the Greek titan Atlas—a hero, not a heroine, who carries the weight of the world on his broad shoulders. There’s no small irony in that, of course. In the gynarchy of the future these struggles over the liabilities of femininity will be moot—at long last! But in our present moment Miuccia Prada is the lone woman in a city of powerful designing men to have created her own vocabulary—to have modeled her own world. It’s a fact she ably demonstrated again tonight.
(Nicole Phelps, Vogue, February 20, 2020)
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▶ April 2, 2021
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Cover Model: Kaia Gerber