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Miu Miu Illustration
Miu Miu SS15 x John WatersIllustration Liana Sophie Ever

Like Miu Miu’s twisted girlhood? You’ll like John Waters

With their shared love of ugly beauty and subversive femininity, Miuccia Prada and the Pope of Trash have more in common than you think

Like for Like is a new series that explores cultural connections, giving recommendations to help promote the discovery of underground fashion, film, music, arts and culture.


Miuccia Prada is the queen of (good) bad taste. Since transforming humble nylon into runway-worthy fabric in the 80s, Prada has championed the weird, the twisted and the downright ugly, turning fashion faux pas into signatures – just look at the million ways she has combined socks and heels, for example. “The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty,” she once said. “And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.” Her work goes beyond ugliness, though. Perhaps thanks to a youth invested in leftist and feminist politics (Prada also has a PhD in political science), her fashion is weighted in a strange, subversive girl power, an offbeat sexuality and sense of intellectualism.

“The investigation of ugliness is more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty... Ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people” – Miuccia Prada

Under Prada’s gaze, traditions of beauty and femininity are there to be played with and subverted, and especially in her work for little-sister brand Miu Miu. Since founding the label in 1993, Prada has always chosen unique beauties to front campaigns – the likes of Chloë Sevigny, squatting with cropped hair by Juergen Teller in 1996, or Mia Goth, whose banned SS15 campaign image was said to be “irresponsible” thanks to her youthful appearance and mildly suggestive posing. For SS15, where models strutted in beehive bouffants, plaid skirts and ruffled blouses like a girl-gang you wouldn’t want to cross, her collection had one clear point of reference, as was echoed over the soundtrack: John Waters’ Female Trouble.


Female Trouble, with its plot of a runaway teen tearaway, unplanned pregnancy, mutilation and murder. might not seem like a go-to inspiration for a prestigious fashion house, but John Waters’ particular brand of filth has long been influential – just look at the recent collections of Jeremy Scott or Adam Selman. Otherwise known as The Pope of Trash (a nickname given him by none other than William Burroughs), The Duke of Dirt and The Prince of Puke, his films have been pushing the limits of taste since the late 60s. Like Prada, he takes joy in subversion, twisting traditions and expectations and turning the ugly into the iconic. 

“They’re definitely all beautiful to me. It’s all kinds of beauty. To me, nobody’s ugly” – John Waters

His female characters were larger than life, outrageously sexual, even murderous. Through his lens, the teenage girl becomes a monstrous caricature (see Dawn Davenport in Female Trouble) and the overenthusiastic pageant mom becomes a would-be bomber (Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray). With his band of Dreamlanders – the cast members who show up throughout his oeuvre – he prioritised character over looks, spurning Hollywood traditions to hire from within his own gang of outsiders. “They’re definitely all beautiful to me. It’s all kinds of beauty. To me, nobody’s ugly,” he told Paper in 1990.