Vogue – February 21st, 2019


It’s a heavy season in Milan. With the monumental news of Karl Lagerfeld’s death on Tuesday, fashion descended upon the Italian fashion capital in the wake of accusations made against Gucci and Prada that products of theirs referenced blackface. In Prada’s case it was a keyring in the image of a monkey with red lips. After strongly denying any such intention when the news broke in December, last week the house further announced the creation of a diversity council chaired by Theaster Gates and Ava DuVernay. Going forward, the artist and the film-maker will be in dialogue with Prada, making sure the company’s merchandise never evokes any such reference again. Gucci has taken similar action, but the weight of these incidents has transformed the industry in record time. And while it will unquestionably shape a better future for fashion, it currently leaves a thick cloud of disenchantment around the Milanese shows.

“Fear is around us. Danger and fear,” Miuccia Prada said after her show, which expanded the horror themes she investigated in her menswear collection last month. She continued her studies in interpretations of fear, from the terrifying – unadorned military tunics, combat uniforms and minimalism – to comical graphics like Frankenstein’s monster lifted from what she called “trashy horror movies”. “You have to make light because it’s still a fashion show,” the designer shrugged, also name-checking her fuzzy faux fur neon backpacks on that note. Mrs Prada said she added a sense of romance in all the flowers and lace that prettified an otherwise austere collection, seeking to battle the mood of fear with “a source of good”. “Each girl was a piece of a love story of my vision of love,” she explained.

The good with the evil? Frédéric Sanchez sampled an instrumental version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ on an exceptionally brilliant soundtrack that deserved its own interpretive thesis. From the thought-provoking titles of songs like Marilyn Manson’s cover of ‘I Put A Spell On You’ and Qual’s ‘Existential Nihilism’, to expressive horror themes like Tales From the Crypt and the opening tune from The X-Files, he very nearly – but not quite – outdid his own soundtrack from January’s Prada men’s show, which featured The Addams Family symphony. Wednesday Addams made several appearances in Thursday’s collection, evoking the familiar idea of nihilistic teenagers – or anti-social adults – who unsubscribe from a world that they fear; in which they feel misinterpreted and mistreated. “Frankenstein’s monster was rejected, but even he was loved,” Mrs Prada reflected, perhaps forgetting how that story ended.

But for all the romance and gallows humour she imbued her collection with in huge flower and monster motifs on silk or knitted dresses and leather skirts – sure to sell up a storm come autumn – the sentiment was undeniably ominous. Asked what it is she fears so much, the designer talked about wars. “Any kind around us. Vile parties and the vile situation in Europe. Strong contrasts growing and growing. In another siècle there would already be a war. I really fear that.” It’s not an uncommon theory: around every turn of the century, a few years before or after the clock strikes twelve, radical revolutions and wars have changed the world with tumultuous impact. What that means in the digital age is anyone’s guess, but the dialogue Mrs Prada has now initiated within her own company is a sensible precaution.

“We work for rich people. We do rich clothes,” she said on the topic of designers and their social conscience. “But somehow fashion is very relevant. There is a request for fashion to talk about political subjects. But to approach political subjects in a world of pleasant things is very difficult. You’ll be criticised. The work is serious but it’s also for pleasure.” Paradoxically – or perhaps not at all – more than her light-hearted horror graphics and romantic floral motifs, it was Prada’s decadent cocktails dresses, glamorous draping and austere tailoring and military garb that felt most desirable for the moment we currently live in.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.