the future is plain

In a year when so many designers are rehashing the Forties, we should be grateful for the cool, modern clothes from Prada

THERE ARE, according to the international fashion pundits, two choices for what women are supposed to wear this coming Spring: tailoring or corsetry. Lord. If that's their idea of choice, then it's time to crawl back into the bin bag. Last Octobe r, almost every designer sent models down the runway dressed either like Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, or in some version of the tawdry satinised Madonna-as-Marilyn look we've seen before. As if to underline this second option, Linda Evangelista, that reliable bellwether of fashion, whose hair colour alone has shepherded in a hundred new trends, went platinum.

So in a world where choice seems to mean the difference betwen looking like Jane Russell dressed or Jane Russell undressed, there is much to be grateful for in the designs of Miuccia Prada, who last October, ignoring boudoir babes and stenographer chicks, sent her uncomplicated, stylish, thoroughly modern clothes down the catwalk.

In the five years since she began to show in Milan, Prada has championed the beauty of plainness. Her clothes, like those of Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, drive a wedge into the front line of international fashion, opening up a route whereby women can escape the influence of big-dollar designers and express themselves differently. Prada clothes are unshowy, considerate clothes for women who want to go about their business in the real world but still pay some attention to what's going onin fashion; and in this they mark out their designer clearly from her - principally male - counterparts.

There must be something in this gender distinction: Jil Sander, who also shows in Milan, designs for women like these; Donna Karan does it in America; Nicole Farhi does it in Britain. All these designers, I hasten to add, charge a lot of money for their clothes, but what is important here is not that you rush out and spend £600 on a Prada jacket, but that you realise there is a third option in fashion as a whole.

In the last two or three seasons, Prada has had an increasing influence on the high street. The reefer coat, ubiquitous this winter, was based largely on a Prada classic, shown in almost every fashion magazine. The knee-length dress, introduced two seasons ago by a Prada ad campaign featuring Christy Turlington in knee-socks, has been influential in bringing down hem-lengths. The simple little black or navy dresses, neat white shirts, beautifully stitched shoes, have introduced a Convent-school girl charm into fashion that some women have found irresistible.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty about Prada clothes that men don't like. Too cold. Too classic. Not overtly sexy enough. Too schoolmistressy. "Intelligent power dressing," as one man, rather disparagingly, put it. Exactly. k.d.lang, in a profile of Pradaby Ingrid Sischy in the New Yorker, described how, looking for the perfect jacket, she tried the men's department, then the women's and finally found one by Prada that fitted the bill. "You know," she said. "I have this image of being someone who wears men's clothes. But I didn't wear clothes that are associated with men because I want to come off like a man. It's just that there were no other kinds of clothes that had to do with confidence and authority instead of vulnerability and stereotypical sexiness."

To understand the clothes, it helps to know the designer. Miuccia Prada is 45. Her family owns Fratelli Prada, one of the great Italian leather-goods manufacturers, and in the early Seventies, like many other young wealthy Italians, she joined the communist party. She also studied for a degree in political sciences. She hated clothes then, and everything they stood for. But things change. By 1978 she had joined the family firm, and begun the long haul to bring it to its present successful position. Her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, works alongside her. One might say that the disciplines of communism - and, she has been quoted as saying, of Catholicism -make themselves felt in the severity of the clothes. The prices, however, belong to an entirely difference set of economic principles.

Much of Prada's financial success, it has to be said, is due to the Prada nylon bag - £115 for a simple one - which took over at the end of the Eighties from Chanel quilting and chains as the fashion-person's most practical accessory. But the clothing line is catching up. Last February, Prada received the International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. And Prada's collection for Spring '95 is distinguished by its lack of ornament, its lack of reliance on the Forties, or any other earlier decade, and its lack of movie-star glamour.

Prada clothes are not for every woman. (As I write, Gossard are probably putting the finishing touches to a new Wondercorset.) But at a time when fashion is increasingly defined in Hollywood terms, Prada is for the art-house lot; clothes for the woman who'd rather look like Irene Jacob than Marilyn Monroe.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory