• Text Alex James Taylor
  • 25th February 2017

femme fatales

One million people took part in the historic Women’s March on Washington last month in a stunning show of protest on the first full day of the Trump administration. That same day, equivalent demonstrations took place all around the world, from London to Miuccia Prada’s native Milan. Whether the designer – and self-described “leftist feminist” – was present is unknown, however you can be sure that this act of collective defiance triggered a creative spark that fed directly into her latest collection.

In a vast concrete venue, Prada’s FW17 show space was organised into individual cubicles furnished by neatly made beds and coffee tables and decorated with posters and collages referencing the brand’s latest collection. It was all very reminiscent of the shared rooms at boarding school, or perhaps the secret camp for an underground movement – think Switchblade Sisters’ Dagger Debs gang mixed with Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers existing in an underground world akin to The Warriors (or perhaps A Clockwork Orange, given the use of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in the rousing soundtrack medley.)

And The Warriors’ titular gang’s influence cut across both locale and clothing. Here 70s ruled supreme; trousers came wide, tops short and coats epic (this is Prada, after all). Far out velvet flares, crocheted bra tops and feathered earrings were all very Pam Grier, whilst elaborate ostrich headpieces, 50s style flapper dresses and floral boob tubes screamed Cher circa Half-Breed. Oh, and those leather pageboy caps and snakeskin belted coats? Plucked straight from Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards’ shared wardrobe. At times you might have mistaken the looks for Spring Summer, what with all the skin on show, but Miuccia also catered for those less-brave. Floral beaded angora knit pencil skirts appeared with matching tops and cardigans – paired with a marabou feathered hood and those shearling mukluks (comfort optimised) for the ultimate fur and feather thermal combo.

This season has seen many designers address the political shitstorm we currently find ourselves at the eye of, but Miuccia Prada – queen of subtle subversion – opted to display her message of defiance via the very traits often used to oppress women: sexuality and seduction. Here’s a prime example, see those vintage Hollywood prints that adorned several pieces? They were designed by legendary artist Robert McGinnis, the man behind many 60s pin-up posters including Barbarella and various Bond girls. Here, that retro seduction was spun on its head and the girls were in control. To quote Rudyard Kipling, “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

“Fashion is about the everyday and the everyday is the political stage of our freedoms. We have decided to look at the role women have had in the shaping of modern society,” read a series of posters plastered on the wall. It was a mantra echoed in the casting: Prada muses new and old, including Freja Beha Erichsen, Amanda Murphy, Natalie Westling and newly inducted faces Kris Grikaite and Sara Grace Wallerstedt. Miuccia’s femme fatales were on the front line of sexual liberation.

By the way, don’t be fooled into thinking that 70s narrative stemmed simply from aesthetic – everything Mrs Prada does is rooted in meaning and symbolism. 1975 was the year the United Nations declared ‘International Women’s Year’, kicking off the annual celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March (just two weeks after this show took place). And whilst there was certainly a sense of dogged student political unrest à la Paris ’68, there was also a great dollop of sexuality, freedom and soul – all qualities the Prada woman has in excess. Can we dig it? We sure can.