Who knew that the one role Elle Fanning was desperate to play was that of a catwalk model? “She said her dream was to do a fashion show. Can you imagine an actress loving the idea of doing a fashion show?” said Miuccia Prada, unable to hide her own amusement at the idea backstage at her Miu Miu show.
When it came to getting Fanning into catwalk character, Prada said, “She improvised,” and gave the Neon Demon star, who opened and closed her show, plenty to go on. From a slept-in beehive hair ‘do to an aggressive slash of eyeliner and kissed-off lipstick, there was something uncompromising about this season’s Miu Miu girl. Her wardrobe took no prisoners either. Channelling the 1950s through a 1980s filter, (with a little bit of Amy Winehouse in a wiggle dress, thrown in), this season’s Miu Miu muse is more Rizzo than Sandra Dee. She’s the kind of girl who will happily sling on an oversize, stonewashed denim blouson, matching skinnies and a pair of booties, (cut low at the front to reveal an incongruous pair of white fluffy socks) and then dare you to say something.
Short skirts and tiny tweedy tunics were slashed to the hip, revealing a tantalising flash of knicker. Belted oversize coats came in synthetic food colouring shades of red, blue, violet or chewing gum white. They looked like pleather but were very much the real thing. This wasn’t a pretty collection. It didn’t sell itself on easy charm, yet it had plenty of appeal.
There’s a school of thought that says Prada’s references are so steeped in her own growing up (pre-internet and social media) that the kids of today can’t relate. True, the 1960s, and even the 1980s seems like a very long time ago for the selfie generation, bred on instant gratification. But there’s more than one way to relate to Miuccia.
“The one thing that constantly inspires me about Mrs Prada is how she sees women,” said the 16-year-old American actress and activist Rowan Blanchard from the front row. A precociously talented and bright young woman, she regularly speaks out on gun control, feminism and has addressed the UN’s women’s conference. Blanchard eloquently explained that whilst her generation might not get every nuanced fashion reference on the Miu Miu runway they totally get what Mrs Prada is about. “She’s not setting out to make women look beautiful by conventional standards. She’s setting out to make women themselves – tough and strong. They’re almost bullet proof,” she said of the Miu Miu girl. “That’s scary and there’s something about that that feels rare especially in a world where women are so designed to look perfect or beautiful. She goes against stereotypes.” It’s this aspect of Prada that really resonates with the new generation of fashion customers. In the 1990s it was called ugly chic. Now Blanchard and her clever cohort see it as feminist individualism and a powerful alternative to the conformist norms. “Prada allowed me not to feel alienated by ideals that maybe were not attainable,” Blanchard explained.
So Fanning led out a beehived bevvy of badass girls. Some of them were models, others had a street-cast realness, curvy bodies and home-dyed hair. “It was just about personality and different people,” explained Prada and the models she chose reflected that – “Not just different races but different sizes too,” she pointed out. “What I feel like I’m doing, that is different from the past, is not thinking of making fashion that is just my own fantasy but discussing it and making it available to other people.” Her Miu Miu approach is collaborative and even involved asking the models if they liked their outfits and changing them accordingly.
“I tried to really have a dialogue. What’s relevant for me now is to open up a little,” she said. “Prada is more about theory. Here I am confronting the people, the girl.” And the girl – Blanchard, Fanning and their cohort of clever friends like the unconventional beauty that they see.
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