One forgets that before Miuccia Prada became such an influential and successful fashion designer, she was a political activist. Her new collection is a timely reminder, in the maelstrom of Italian politics and the downfall of Berlusconi, that feminism struggles in such a macho society. Prada chose her catwalk at Milan’s spring/summer 2014 Fashion Week on Thursday as a stage to reclaim some ground with an audacious collection inspired by power and feminism.
She commissioned four muralists famed for their vibrant, political street art to transform her catwalk into a dramatic streetscape with their images of women painted on the walls being translated into her collection. A bold portrait by the French artist Pierre Mornet featured on a slim coat and portraits by Jeanne Detallante were recreated in dresses worn with rhinestone bras.
The collection was vibrant with pop art colours. There were even a couple of these bold images worked into fur coats. There were brightly spangled bras over dresses and coats and everything was worn with footballer-style leg-warmers. The styling was redolent of girl street gang culture in America, full of attitude. How this will translate into wearable clothes for the Prada customer will depend, but under the spangled bras were some great 1960s-style coats, simple sporty vest dresses and pleated skirts.
Frida Giannini’s collection for Gucci struck a similar chord for strong independent women. It had an athletic theme in terms of silky jogging trousers, black suede mesh tunics and baseball shorts. Giannini has spent a lot of time in the gym getting her abs back since having her baby earlier this year. However, the dark colours, kimono robes, harem trousers and art nouveau graphics inspired by Erté, the famous fashion illustrator of the early 20th century, suggested something far richer and more sensual than would be worn for a workout, but blending sport and glamour can be a tricky hybrid to create.
There was an interesting dynamic at Tod’s, the Italian luxury leather accessories house, which has created a full-blown catwalk collection for the first time with its new designer Alessandra Facchinetti, who has previously worked at Gucci and Valentino. Her debut for Tod’s was strong and womanly and, despite its obvious luxury, was understated. There were beautifully crafted napa and laser-cut leather boxy tops, apron-hemmed dresses and gently gathered skirts in delicate pink, grey and a striking combination of white and dark red. The iconic Tod’s accessories such as the gommino shoe and D bag were coloured and embellished to match.
In contrast to these bold women designers, their male counterparts showing in the early days of Milan Fashion Week presented an altogether traditional view of women as pretty, gentle and feminine creatures. Giorgio Armani, for instance, was inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies for his Emporio collection. Hazy pastel flower prints were worked into tunics and trousers, while delicate shades of lavender, pink, mint and grey came in many variations of boxy to longline jackets and wide trousers. Wide trousers are shaping up to become a key item in the spring fashion season.
Antonio Marras, whose bucolic presentation was accompanied by classical musicians wearing animal masks, featured delicate watery pastel-print coats and dresses. The silhouette was light and airy, the waistline fluctuating between empire and drop waist and featured charming pastoral prints and hand-drawn portraits. His vision is romantic and captivating. As was Karl Lagerfeld’s for Fendi, where he works closely with Silvia Fendi who designs the delightful bags, which this season looked like sweet furry little animals that you would carry under your arm. Lagerfeld’s collection was inspired by his recent photo exhibition in Paris of fountains. It featured dresses in cascading tiers of organza, and colour that graduated in layers from white to red or pale blue to navy and looked precise and beautifully light.