For the first time I've really been able to study and dissect fashion week at New York, London, Milan and Paris. A lot of this comes from being a silent observer and following numerous accounts on instagram but things are slowly becoming clear to me now. What hasn't changed amongst this sudden revelation is the genius of Miuccia Prada and her vast contributions to the fashion industry throughout her career. Prada and Miu Miu remain inextricably linked in aesthetic this season like many others, although they were noticeably different in concept. In stark contrast to the spectacle of Karl Lagerfeld, Nicolas Ghesquiére for Louis Vuitton or Celine which felt more like a circus than a fashion show. Coach managed to combine the bleacher-like seating with the main themes of their fashion collection in New York but it seemed to me that remaining designers merely drew attention to the growing disconnect between the brand and their devoted following. Instead the front row were nestled in amongst the action when Prada showed in Milan and the lucky few were immortalized along with a pastel concoction of Mad Men-inspired suits and sensibly austere cocktail dresses.
The very premise set Prada apart from other established designers while her cotton candy aesthetic and 1960s inspired attire only added value to this sentiment. There's been so much talk about flared pants and the spirit of the 70s coming alive as the next hottest trend but one can't help but feel a little overwhelmed. It's all too much of the same thing to be able to fully digest the subtleties and differences between each designer. That's when I begin to lose interest and something unique and different becomes suddenly all too attractive and impossible to ignore. Like everyone else I went completely gaga over the metallic Mary Janes with their chunky heels perfectly complemented by alternating panels of stainless steel and jade green flooring. These were only the icing on what was a very sweet cake with its complexities too. Textures and accessories were used indispensably and it made me come to a great realization. Although they are seldom discussed they constitute some of the most blessed things in fashion.
An unexpected addition to the parade of vintage nostalgia was the molecule motif which featured on a number of silky dresses and choice suits. Of course my inner science nerd totally fangirled over this but I'm not completely sure I would describe the pattern as a 'molecule' but whatever. The very idea of a fashion collection modeled on a female scientist living through the 1960s is pretty much a dream come true for me although highly idealized. What we tend to focus on during popular culture movies of this era is the fashion and less so the gender politics. Still I'm not disputing that there were female scientists during this time but it would have been extremely tough. It's a nice idea that they dressed up everyday before putting on their white lab coat and diving head first into their work. There are very few women undertaking an honors degree within the school of geology at my university, and fewer still who would identify as feminists and interested in fashion. But I'd like to reiterate that you can do both and an interest in fashion or clothes shouldn't be seen as detracting value from an academic career (or vice versa).
Tweed was the other driving force behind this collection. It was refreshing to see someone other than Karl Lagerfeld incorporate this material into their collection and may I just say these tweed dresses are far more demure than a Chanel jacket. Maybe it has more to do with the leather evening gloves or embellishment of crystals or floral motif brooches but I loved each look. Plus showing several of these pieces together which range from long coats to spaghetti strap dresses and every two-piece combination in between demonstrated that tweed isn't just for Fall and Winter but has a softer side. In a way, certain textures and materials can really be type cast but Miuccia Prada was able to step outside that archaic way of thinking and do something new and exciting. It also acted as the perfect vehicle for a different colour palette one people would more typically associated with the cooler Autumn months. Again the use of accessories proved powerful with the gloves injecting some much needed colour into each and every outfit.
It's been a very long time since I last bought myself a dress, since I usually prefer the challenge of creating many different outfits from skirt and top combinations. It's slightly more difficult to add the same amount of variations with a dress unless of course you have a mountain of different coats and accessories at your disposal. So instead I've stuck with "the smarter investment" but Prada gave me serious dress envy and it's not difficult to see why! They look like beautiful works of art while sailing down the runway but also lend themselves to being used as just another layer within an outfit. This trick of wearing a cap-sleeved blouse with contrasting collar underneath an apron dress is perfect for maximizing colour. It's especially appealing for those who don't like the feeling of tights or stockings or simply can't find the right colour to match their shoes. Plus the more layers you were the smaller the likelihood of bumping into someone wearing the exact same outfit which probably doesn't both some but is irksome to me.
It was interesting to see the 1960s used to demonstrate Prada's penchant for both whimsical cocktail dresses as well as suits and accessories. It's a shame that people no longer buy brooches or leather gloves in the same way that they did in the last century but I suppose our smart phones make the latter somewhat impractical. Unless of course you live in a country which experiences "real winter" unlike that in Australia where these items are absolutely vital and not an optional extra. While the bags could have been more prominent within this collection I think with so much healthy competition from Fendi and the recent Coach X Baseman collaboration that this was not their primary focus. Instead the seamless use of plastic and crystal embellishments on the dresses, as well as the model's hairstyles did more to sell the aesthetic of the collection as a whole. This was complemented by the peachy tones and demure but simple makeup. I'm no beauty blogger but from what scuttlebutt I've heard on various forms of social media this is tipped to be one of the biggest beauty trends for next season with sites like Refinery29 already offering tutorials using drugstore makeup.
As already mentioned I loved the continuation of the brooches into a range of crystal hair barrettes. Using it to tie in place the ponytails also offered a way to wear the pieces without wearing a boring loose ponytail or going to the trouble of maintaining a side-swept fringe. This is something which anyone can try on a budget as well, which is obviously the more interesting part of the equation to a brand's success. Yes having a loyal following of fans and lots of instagram followers are what everyone seems to talk about the most but there are values which have can't be as easily calculated and seem to have equal weight. While the colourways will probably be the hardest thing to find (until factories begin churning out a series of knock-offs), thrift stores everywhere will have some Winter coats and variety of ties. In theory and with a little bit of luck you could replicate these looks on a budget, using recycled clothing with variable success. The best option to find some statement brooches and crystal bling is probably etsy.
The final thing that blew everyone's socks off (pun intended) were the shoes! I don't know how she does it but every season without fail both Prada and Miu Miu make dreamy shoes that I want. What's even more impressive is that each shoe is practical, sensible and yet different. While I would say Nicholas Kirkwood makes the most creative shoes this is largely in part due to collaboration between the company and other runway designers. As an entity Prada make shoes which appeal to many women of different sub-cultures and styles. That's what's most fascinating to me. I fondly remember seeing re-posted images of these shoes all over my Instagram newsfeed and realizing just how significant the phenomenon was. The design will be undoubtedly regurgitated in a multitude of different ways but I don't think a convincing dupe will be made. Not balancing the colours and the sheen of the material in just the right way but a sporty blend between the traditional Mary Jane and buckled shoes everywhere.
Photos: Monica Feudi / FeudiGuaineri.com