Fashion’s premier feminist, Miuccia Prada, timed this return to form to perfection. In a season when slogans of female empowerment are a catwalk must-have and movie stars have been ripped off moodboards in favour of suffragettes, Prada came roaring back to life in Milan on Thursday.
Her recent collections have lacked a little urgency, but this one was a punchy reminder that Prada was using fashion as a way of talking about the female experience many years before it became fashionable.
The show began with wide corduroy trousers, duffel coats and scarves, but the proportions were skewed. Imagine if Comme des Garçons remade Ali MacGraw’s wardrobe in Love Story, and you get the picture. Then came pencil skirts in Agatha Christie tweed, bombshell dresses in fluffy mohair, and beaded cocktail skirts with feather bands. When the show ended, the room erupted in cheering and a chorus of I-want-that-dress (the red bombshell one, as worn by Lindsey Wixson) followed by a stampede backstage to congratulate Prada.
Miuccia Prada had a lot to say backstage, but there was one anecdote she repeated twice. “I heard that in America, at the women’s march, an old feminist said ‘I can’t believe that 50 years later we are still in the same place.’” This was a collection looking at why it is that gender politics finds itself, in 2017, wondering if it has made any progress in the last half-century. Prada decided to leave the slogan T-shirts to others, and instead of addressing the direct political issue, have her say about gender politics through the lens of examining the dynamic between men and women in sex and romance.
In seduction, Prada says, as in politics, it is remarkable how little has changed. “The weapons of seduction are always the same. Feathers. Lingerie. When you are an educated feminist, sometimes you reject this, but it is true that these have stayed the same for many, many years. How is it that desire is necessarily linked to these things? Does this mean that seduction is something deeply human, or that it is a social structure? This is a serious question.” Prada, who of all the catwalk superstar designers is the least afraid to ask the tricky questions, is back on fighting form just when fashion needs her most.