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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?