From “business to beach...optimism is a choice”, said Miuccia Prada, certainly the most influential figure in Italian fashion, speaking to Style.com following her Milan show last week, in an unusually straightforward and light-hearted manner.
In fact, here was a cool and minimal approach – a boxy Sixties-inspired silhouette with modern-day laser-cut edges – that brought to mind Prada in its original incarnation in the late Eighties/early Nineties. The layered referencing that has become a trademark was this time more discreet than ever, and complicated things, nonetheless.
What to make, in particular, of the accessories? Prada, it almost goes without saying, is the seasonal creator of the ultimate “It” bags crafted in everything from lambskin, to ostrich leather and, for its most monied customers, crocodile – and snakeskin. This time around, however, the predominant look was cut in nothing more obviously haute than transparent plastic, albeit trimmed with neutrally coloured – mainly black or beige – skin. Shoes were similarly, well, non-existent although dangling with watery baubles as the clothes became more embellished.
But wait. Only a fashion philistine could fail to remark that the lady in question has chosen to produce something not entirely unlike this before. In the 1990s, Prada gave the world the proudly utilitarian nylon rucksack, swiftly followed by bowling bags, satchels, totes and more in that thoroughly modern, defiantly man-made material. That’s not to say that the price tag reflected any down-with-the-masses appeal. The designs in question, all stamped with that instantly recognisable black and silver tag, were produced to impeccable standards, lasted a lifetime, and the technology involved took years to perfect. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t long before everyone who was anyone cast aside their heavy, leather baggage in place of this light but still luxurious alternative.
In recent years, the Prada bag has become more overwrought – patch-worked, now more likely to be stamped in gold, in hard-to-identify and often vivid colours and skin. And when the designer tired of that, shoes became the focus of her attention – amongst the most elaborate and strangely beautiful sculptural designs in the world.
Is colourless plastic the new nylon, then? Quite probably. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that, with the economy struggling, a woman labouring under the weight of her expensive, hardware-heavy bag, or teetering about in fantasy footwear, looks, if not plain insensitive, then anachronistic at least.
A word of warning: exposing the contents of one’s bag to the world is a far from simple business necessitating more rigorous editing than most of us are used to. Naked sandals, meanwhile, call for the perfect pedicure and, above all, no hairy toes. Understated under no circumstances translates as uncouth, after all.