Anatomy — the inner structure of something. So what is the “Anatomy of Romance,” the topic Miuccia Prada explored in her compelling show on Thursday night? By her lights — and probably, those of most people north of middle school — romance is a double-sided condition, on one hand, about rapture and happy heart palpitations and on the other, well, the opposite.
Such a dichotomy plays right into Prada’s creative sphere of opposition and contradiction. Point-counterpoint is where she lives. “Basically it’s a sort of will, a need to narrate the good and the bad together, which kind of corresponds with our times. So, this is it, more or less,” Prada said in her pre-show press conference. She opened that session by invoking Karl Lagerfeld, at once agreeing and disagreeing with him. “I want to say one thing,” Prada said. “Karl Lagerfeld said fashion designers should work and shut up. I have thought the same thing many times, but I believe we need to talk. An important voice is requested from fashion on many topics, so this is a job with a double face. On one side, [it] is industrial; on the other, it’s social, political etc.” While that comment applies only laterally to her collection and this review, it’s fascinating stuff from Prada, both in terms of the blackface imbroglio her company is involved in that led her to launch its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and in the way she has addressed social/cultural issues from her runway for many years.
Here, the connection resonated in the context of welcome personal romance in tough times, and in her penchant for finding dichotomy at every turn. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Prada and her work had to wonder at the hot pink invitation heralding her romance motif. She wasted no time in clarifying her perspective, opening not with one of the floral wonders that would soon appear, but with a warrior goddess type decked in long braids and black dress with bustier bodice and draped skirt with the look of undone armor, her footwear facilitating her brazen strut. A few looks later: a model in a bright white shirt and skirt, unfussy of cut but splashed with bright, giant flowers. From there, a constant juxtaposition, sometimes from one look to the next, sometimes in a single look — dark and light, sturdy and ethereal, plain and decorated. The beautiful clothes variously telegraphed sober femininity (black dresses and coats, lean on top and full through the skirt) and unbridled joy — those giant flowers splashed on white; 3-D nosegays affixed to slim skirts. Because romance can be harsh, there was a major military moment in Army green, sometimes mixed with diaphanous lace. As for actual lovers, Prada singled out a single couple, who seemed to have infiltrated her lineup from left field (left field being her most recent men’s show): Frankenstein and his bride. But then, fashion these days is all about inclusivity, no?
Within the heady Prada-ness of it all, Prada challenged herself on the industrial side of her job — to make dresses with which she would be satisfied. “Dresses don’t come easily to me,” she said. “If they are too sexy they don’t work for me; If they are too clichéd they don’t work for me….I made the effort [to not] put together existing pieces. So I have worked much more than usual.” The result — interesting, evocative dresses for a fashion gal to love, along with coats, pants and protective military gear. Talk about a fine romance.