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November 23, 2017
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Prada Spring/Summer 2014. Source: thesartorialist.com

In her article A Case for a Spectacle earlier this month, Alexandra Sarabia wrote for The Genteel that the overwhelming number of designers presenting during fashion week within a tight and crammed schedule means an unforgettable show is required to set you apart from the crowd.

She referenced the showmanship on display in New York; luxury cars driving on to the runway for the Spring/Summer 2014 Opening Ceremony collection, and a venue dressed up as a haunting mental asylum for Thom Browne. There is unquestionable truth in this argument. The presentations, although hiking up in cost for brands, are of Hollywood proportions, offering dramatic and unique visual experiences.

Yet as I sat watching Miuccia Prada’s offering in Milan last Thursday, I was struck by something altogether more profound. Some designers are daring to take this spectacle one stop further - not simply using it in their set design, but also on their runway, embedding it within the very core of their collection.

It is more than simply flashing lights and revving exhausts; it is about engaging with a raw creative design talent and mixing it with an element of risk – the latter of which has become seemingly lost from the industry in recent years.

Prada Spring/Summer 2014
Source: style.com

Of course, Prada’s venue design was predicated upon energetic and imaginative proportions. Four muralists, Miles “El Mac” Gregor, Mesa, Gabriel Specter and Stinkfish, along with illustrators Jeanne Detallante and Pierre Mornet, had been commissioned to create spray-painted bold images of women upon the walls surrounding Prada’s show space, with these designs then being translated on to much of the collection.

There was a certain sense of theatre to the whole display. For the artists, their brief was to work upon themes of “femininity, representation, power and multiplicity”, explained Prada in the show booklet. “The women on the walls represent the multiplicity of guises that women assume in the course of a day, or a lifetime”.

While seemingly vague, these requests gave the artists the opportunity to bring together the venue and collection as a single entity. The sense of symbolism and storytelling pervaded the room, existing synonymously between both art and fashion. Indeed, this has arguably been done before. For Spring/Summer 2013, Kenzo projected digital versions of their jungle prints on to the runway, camouflaging the bold lines and graphic colours of their collection with this parallel effect.

Yet there was something far more complex at work within Prada’s Spring/Summer 2014 offering. It wasn’t simply about creating synergy and cohesion throughout her brand or appealing to mass-market trends. Nor was it about impressing her audience, or tailoring a collection to the creative eye of the fashion editor; after all, how on earth could these pieces be feasibly styled alongside other designer wares?

Next season, mark my word; there will be street-style photographs appearing of modish dressers matching feather headbands with flip-flops.

Prada was not thinking about fitting in to the traditional magazine fashion spread; instead, she was re-inventing it. Rather than looking to work alongside a key seasonal trend, she was instead creating her own. Prada is an innovator, an entrepreneur; a visionary, if I may. If you want to be the leader of the trend brigade, get with Prada’s crew. Her collection was about daring to be different in order to take fashion that one step further.

Next season, mark my word; there will be street-style photographs appearing of modish dressers matching feather headbands with flip-flops, and tennis socks with thick fur coats. Athletic outfits will be paired with feminine touches. In complete paradox to traditional Spring/Summer trends, there will be a cacophony of plum purples, mottled blacks, heavenly greys, khaki greens and rich turquoises. Embellishments will remain heavy, while the likelihood of bras making an appearance on top of clothing is high.

Wearable? I wasn’t sure. None of these elements should traditionally work together. Yet in a single collection, Prada had left us wondering why it had never crossed our minds to mix jewel-encrusted dresses with knee-high white tennis socks, heavy motif-printed fur coats and thick rubber flip-flops; all in the height of summer. As the fashion pack watched the runway with bated breath, you could sense that everyone was wondering what had inspired the collection, and how on earth Prada managed to unite these contradictory ideas – because, ultimately, it did work. It was successful.

Prada Spring/Summer 2014
Source: style.com

With the final procession weaving across the black runway, I was drawn to the thought that I was sat watching a little piece of fashion history. It was the design revolution that many had been crying out for. Finally, someone was demonstrating willingness to take risks - to step outside the box. Of course, this will be happening in Spring/Summer 2014. Miuccia Prada has said so. And, that is the thing about Prada.

She knows how to make trends happen. It is not simply about making her presentation memorable; it is about inspiring and evoking change – across both the industry and the buying public. It was a runway collection, like many others this season. However, it wasn’t simply about creating a spectacle; it was about being a spectacle. It was a moment of trend setting, a change in the direction of fashion. Ultimately, Prada demonstrated the qualities that truly make her the hugely successful designer she is, and subsequently injected that much-needed burst of energy back in to the industry.

Feather headband, anyone?

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