Fashion Is The Thing With Feathers

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Has Prada bought a plumasserie? You would have thought so. Last season’s marabou and this season’s ostrich: Miuccia Prada must have been conducting her own Conference of the Birds. For certain, these are not the feathers favoured by Frederick Lee. Still, there are a lot more feathers in this collection than usual, no?

It’s not just the sway of feathers. There is the shake of leather fringes and the beaded ones too: visual distraction that are more akin to what showgirls wear than what Prada used to propose women don. These attachments are not just ornamentation since they are not static. Clothes have always had a kinesiological aspect to them. Prada thus adds more movement to garments with embellishments that swing and swag: the feathers bordered seams and hems, and trimmed shoes. They’re very much a part of the drag queen’s playbook. Or a coquette’s arsenal of tricks.

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Is this then a statement on the relationship between frou-frou and femininity? Prada started its ready-to-wear line in 1988 with fairly lady-like looks. However, rather than go all ‘femmey’, to borrow an L word, the brand has banked on its penchant for the offbeat—namely fabrics that have come to be known as awful since they seemed to be based on ’70s wallpaper and the colour of puke. Then came ornamentation usually associated with women for whom baubles and bling mean a womanly ideal. Paired with Prada’s gawky silhouette, the look is far from, say, Michael Kor’s lady-like, or glamour.

At the same time, Miuccia Prada has not let up on the ugly-pretty (or pretty ugly, if that’s how you see it) aesthetic that the brand has built itself on. Over-sized jewellery and now double rows of feather and fringes (oh, and furry belts) may seem to be on par with Gucci (ornamentation is always big in Italy), but the near-excess is mostly tempered with Prada’s pairing of prints and shapes. This season, there’s the illustrations of bombshells (isn’t that very Dolce & Gabbana?) by Robert E, McGinnis, who’s known for his cover drawings for the James Bond books of the ’60s and the movie poster of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We’re not clear who really likes wearing an illustration of a person on her body, but Prada is fond of incorporating icon-like images in their clothes.

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Then there are the deliberately not-sleek shapes. Of the latest collection, to note is the proportion of the lapels of the coats (in corduroy, no less!). The drop notch lapel is large, with the upper half so huge that it falls like a sailor’s collar in the rear. One of the ensembles that we find very appealing is the twin set, a-sweater-and-cardigan pair that is very much associated with early Prada. Here, the return is dotty granny, but with the charm of little sister playing with mom’s clothes. That means the pairing isn’t matchy-matchy, as twin sets are known to be, but as diverse as pulling things from the wardrobes of two different people. We like the a-tad-too-big cardigan—beaded too—that is teamed with cowry-shell necklace. How deliciously gauche is that?

Despite media reports that Prada isn’t doing well on the stocks exchange and on the shop floor, Miuccia Prada isn’t succumbing to market demands. This is not to say that what she does isn’t commercial. In fact, Prada fans will be able to find those items that they have always loved in the collection, and still be able to uncover those pieces they do not own. Although she stays true to her aesthetic convictions, Miuccia Prada knows how to have a bit of fun, too. And, simultaneously, have a tease at well-loved—or frown-upon—feminine frills.

Photos: Prada

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