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Backstage at Prada AW17Photography Donald Gjoka

Prada explores feminism, femininity, and femme fatales

In a poster-covered set, the designer explores the idea that the personal is political

“Fashion is about the everyday and the everyday is the political stage of our freedoms. We have decided to look at the role women have had in the shaping of modern society.” So said a subtly politicised poster in yesterday’s Prada show space, the setting for a collection in which Miuccia Prada explored ideas of feminism, femininity, and seduction. Designed by Rem Koolhaas’s architectural company OMA, the set saw January’s menswear props (like tiled walls and vinyl beds) get upgraded with colourful movie style prints and floral fabrics like a teenage girl’s bedroom, riddled with hidden meanings. We break down the collection’s main takeaways.


“I never want to be political, directly political in my job,” said Prada of the manifestos which adorned the space, but it was clear that the position of women today was a touchstone for her. After all, Prada wrote her university thesis on the Italian Communist Party and the feminist Unione Donne Italiane, of which she was a member. “We couldn’t not take care of what was happening,” she explained backstage, noting the collection was a response to the situation of women today. As a result, the femininity presented yesterday was far from straightforward; full of vintage throwbacks but assertively modern, with alluring elements like slit silk skirts paired with buckled thigh high boots. 


Prada said that a film by legendary Italian auteur Federico Fellini, La città Delle Donne, or City of Women, was a key reference. Although the inspiration didn’t manifest itself physically in the clothes (“that has nothing to do with the fashion”, she said) the concept was the starting point for a collection which featured vintage references, furry fabrics, trompe l’oeil motifs and pageboy caps. “I was fixated with any hairy material,” said Prada, referencing its “primitive” quality, before also justifying the presence of knitwear in the collection “a symbol of women at home but feminism.”


Seduction is a topic that has been on Prada’s mind of late. “I have this discussion: why people like fashion. Even some very clever women say it’s because they want to seduce,” she mused to Susannah Frankel in the new issue of AnOther Magazine, out now. After the show, she addressed the paradoxical state of womanhood: the battle between being empowered and intelligent, but also attractive. “We really still use the same instruments of seduction that you used 50 years ago,” she said. “The problem – women want to appeal, want to be beautiful, but how if you are intelligent?... (the collection) was more about the instruments of seduction, if seduction is interesting, if it’s important (and) if it’s relevant.” Those typical instruments (bias cut silk, bikini tops and bralets, marabou feathers) were all present, but unsurprisingly offered with a classic Prada subversion.


That subversion also found its way into the prints. Following on the sell-out success of AW16’s Christophe Chemin designs, paintings of glamorous girls found their way onto skirts, tops and dresses. “These women are beautiful but they are also killers,” shared Prada of the kitschy, vintage illustrations, the work of original 60s artist Robert McGinnis. He was the man behind some iconic James Bond posters, featuring femme fatales who were alluring but deadly. The message was this – like those depicted on their clothes, Prada’s women had more to them than a first glance might suggest.