Update: This story was originally published on March 9, 2014. But, with May 10 marking Miuccia Prada's 64th birthday, we're revisiting our ode to the visionary to celebrate. Happiest of birthdays to you, Miuccia! Here's to 64 more years of ugly/pretty, quirky/clever, weird/wonderful design. Salute!
(And, yes, we've added all new products in the slides ahead, so you can treat yourself to a proper Prada shopping spree. You know, as if it were your birthday.)
The ugly-pretty sentiment is one we here at R29 unabashedly embrace, but Miuccia Prada goes further than the current state of fashion or what's in vogue at our office — her work feels personal. The woman, Miuccia Prada, and the ideas she sets forth tap into the essence of so many smart women I know and work with, and, to take it back to that personal place, the curious teen/art-school kid I was and sort of still am in my 30s.
When I was in high school in the mid-'90s, Prada launched her little sister line, Miu Miu. Early-campaign girls Drew Barrymore and Chloë Sevigny encapsulated the quirky-cool kid in a very real way. Amidst the total posers in the cheesy Airwalk ads and untouchable waif-thin models in the actual high-fashion ads, these girls, in their pastel clothes, stood out. Sevigny, coming off the movie Kids, wore a pointed-collar shirt and sat slumped in a chair, clutching a giant white purse with a sheer skirt that wouldn't have ever made sense in real life but somehow totally worked. These ads were ripped from their bindings and added to my looseleaf binder filled with fashion tears.
Later in life, sitting in one of my fashion design classes at F.I.T., my professor challenged us to think about the creation of collections and what it's like to skate the line between art and commercialism and appreciate the thought process leading up to a final line. She brought up Prada's collection — laced with wallpaper prints, muted colors, and smart design that flaunted a women's body in a most non-sexualized way. "Go to Barneys. Take a trip to Jeffrey," she told us — "How are you taking this course without touching the clothes?" She tasked us with inspecting a floral-print dress from the fall 2000 collection and to come back and report on what made it different than any other floral dress. This was the first time I stepped foot into a really upscale store, and it was then I truly fell in love with Miuccia Prada's designs. I took the assignment a step further and dared to take the dress into a fitting room. Tried it on, turned it inside out, and traced my fingers along the surprisingly intricate seam work, a thing of complicated, subtle beauty that was unlike anything I had seen before. All at once, I was frightened at the thought of attempting to learn to create patterns in this manner and impressed by a designer that I was just starting to really understand.
Since then, Prada and Miu Miu's collections have always stood out as the ones to look to each season. They are trendsetting, thoughtful pieces of work. Minimalism is not one of Prada's trademarks, but she is also not a woman to just add stuff whimsically. She edits her thoughts down to poignant, often-political statements. With a PhD in political science and years of miming under her belt (yes, Miuccia once studied and performed as a mime), it makes sense that she is the total master of smart, worldly, and surreal cheekiness.
Subversive humor has always been at the core of the art and fashion I truly enjoy. And, when it comes to subverting culture and seamlessly fusing it into the way we dress, she reigns as queen. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2012 exhibit Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, the curation included a section titled Naïf Chic, which explores "Prada's adoption of a girlish sensibility to subvert expectations of age-appropriate dressing." And, here lies what may truly be the essence of why Prada is such a success: Women don't want to dress a certain age all the time. They want to dress how they feel, and they want to have fun.
A recent review of the latest Miu Miu collection dubbed the line as "normcore" among other things (other things that I enjoyed and agreed with). "No, no, no," I heard myself yelling inside my head — if normcore is an actual thing, and I have my doubts it is, Miu Miu and subsequently Miuccia Prada are certainly anything but. While Prada designs for the less glaringly glamorous woman, there is nothing normcore about her or what will one day be her legacy. And, the proof is in the sartorial pudding. Click ahead to peep (and shop if you are in the market, you lucky lady) a few of my favorite current Miuccia Prada designs.