“Severe, structured, naive, a little bit tacky…suggesting a way of dressing but also leaving people free to do their own will,” said Miuccia Prada of her latest Miu Miu collection, which waded into the dialogue of fantasy versus reality fashion that’s played out on the runways here in Paris, where couture-like extravagance has collided with denim, sometimes in the same collection, just as haute Parisians go about their day-to-day while the gilets jaunes protest.
Prada found a middle ground, defusing the tension with a beautiful show of uncommonly common clothes. Working with raw materials like shearling, canvas, linen and wood, she elevated feminine silhouettes through hand-painting and humble embellishments — some of which could be achieved through DIY, she was the first to say.
A row of mismatched gold and pearl buttons added character to a black pinafore with mohair cardigan slipping off the shoulders underneath, for a hint of not-so-innocent schoolgirl. The humble treasures found at a flea market or grandma’s house also decorated a great-looking black, boxy sleeveless coat, and flat sandals that will surely be on many spring-must lists.
The idea of making more with less extended to a blue peacoat and black side-slit dress with crude, almost childlike ruffles, and fanciful shearling vests and leather skirts with charming hand-painted flowers. The shearlings had a bohemian innocence, especially when worn with sandals with carved flower-shaped wood heels. But these women were no hippies; they were all about glamour, even if their Aqua Net hair and laced-up patent leather knee boots were a bit outre. There was joy in the effort of turning one’s self out, using whatever means available.
On the runway, Prada kept subtracting and paring back as the collection went along. The winning combination of a sleeveless babydoll crop top and skirt came both refined and then rough, in a dressed-up peach and purple color clash, then in black topstitched in white, with raw edges and crude-looking crystal decoration, worn over a white linen skirt.
Filmy white frocks that could just as well have been muslins — or nightgowns — were embellished with colorful folded fabric flowers, or shredded sashes, reduced to the last look, a white draped shoulder gown that was literally a blank canvas, decorated only with a wood flower brooch and a twisted necklace of jute rope and pearls.
Like someone who started as a communist and ended up a luxury arbiter, Prada mused afterward on the possibility for fashion, whatever form it takes, to make someone’s day a little brighter, but didn’t take too much ownership over it. Instead, she issued a call to creativity: “The thoughts are there for everybody.”