Ugly Fashion, Feminism, & Prada

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miuEMBEdPhoto: Courtesy of Miu Miu.


When we see things designed by Miuccia Prada, our general reaction is a sharp intake of breath and a giant swoon, not a sneering "ewwww, gross!" Be that as it may, the designer has staunchly maintained that ugliness, even trashiness, are her main muses when it comes to design for both Prada and Miu Miu. "Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer," she explained to Telegraph 's Stella magazine. And that, she says, has been something that has ostracized her from the rest of the industry. She explains that when she started out, "fashion was the worst place to be if you were a leftist feminist. It was horrid. I had a prejudice, yes, I always had a problem with it." And yet, we'd argue, it's that isolation — whether just a feeling, a reality, or a mix of both — is what gave her the unique perspective she has today. It's why her designs feel consistently fresh when many others grow stale, and clearly, something about her outlook on life has enabled her to maintain a certain sourness of attitude and apply it to darkly beautiful, artfully low-brow designs.

For one thing, in many ways, she's revolutionized the idea that high fashion houses like Prada need to reflect some quintessentially old-school, ladylike vision. Her recent use of waist belts in nearly every look does harken back to that stereotype. But let's take her Prada Fall '13 ready-to-wear collection as an example: The wet hair, intentionally ill-fitting silhouettes, and mismatched patterns on a level Courtney Love would admire culminate in an effect that's much more lady-goes-slumming-and-likes-it than just plain old ladylike. Miu Miu often follows a similar lead, though it's often decidedly more youthful and less European. For Spring '13 ready-to-wear, Prada (the woman and the brand) came out with some downright weird, almost Tim Burton-esque pictures plastered onto structured suits — and then there were those flip-flop sock platform things. There's a somewhat goth sensibility to what she does, especially for Miu Miu, that feels truer than the typical seasonal turn towards the slightly more macabre.

Where does "leftist feminism" enter into all this? It's hard to say. If it's about embracing all types of women, the honest truth is that much of what Prada does still falls within the confines of a certain accepted idea of femininity. But what would we expect from a woman who thinks self-love is overrated? For her, perhaps feminism means not necessarily equalizing but rather accepting otherness and, to use a more fashion-y term, working it. One might wonder if fashion can ever really adopt the word "ugly" without, well, making it pretty. In her case, that question might be irrelevant. As someone who started out as an isolated or even disliked figure in the industry, her clothing glamorizes the underdog and the outlier, and that's a good perspective to have. (Telegraph)