published in Dress Code #39, p. 32-36

Real fantasies and dreams come true: fashion's most powerful woman.

Miuccia Prada can be described not only as the most powerful, but also most influential, admired and lovable woman in fashion. Ask any designer today which personae has influenced him the most and the answer will straightforwardly be 'Miuccia Prada'. She is the godmother of fashion and has introduced the 'ugly beautiful' to the runway. Her collections are an exercise in overcoming bad taste traumata. Very personal traumata. Miuccia hates many things and she loves to overcome this detest. Thus, her collections become self-therapeutic sessions – each time tackling another disgraceful cultural or aesthetic phenomenon. She hates all-inclusive beach resorts and creates a whole collection based on allover-prints of sunbathers. She hates golf and sends out an army of floral caddy boys. She hates kitsch and introduces an accessory range full of banana earrings and monkey embellishment. But she does it with so much love and attachment that it turns into something utterly wonderful, beautiful and thoughtful. Because what she throws into the design mix always incorporates this signature 'retro futurism' that is so Prada. 40s are now, 20s are tonight, 60s are tomorrow. Her time is now. What she creates becomes a trend. Instantly. On Instagram and twitter, in high street stores – an overnight sensation in editorials, the streets and, eventually, our wardrobes.

'Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman'

Founded by her father as a leather goods company, Miuccia has turned the House of Prada into an empire of it-bags, must-haves and killer-heels. A business powerhouse and dream factory, each six months proposing a new look and forecasting the future. Her product is not only clothes, it is style. But what is this stylistic empire built on? What are the components that create such symbiosis? What is the principle of Prada's construction? First of all, when we look at the cut and shape, the silhouette and proportion we intuitively sense a woman-ness: bustier tops occur throughout the seasons – as ruffled dirndl décolleté, strapped bandeaux or cropped halter-neck bibs. On the other hand, Miuccia plays with the cinched, respectively dropped waist. While the cinched waist propels the feminity, the dropped waist underlines a certain boyish-ness. Either way, Miuccia implies that the Prada woman is still wafting between Lolita school girl and fierce power woman. Fantasy prints, Swarovski crystals and Harajuku platform sandals celebrate a lollipop innocence. While burgundy leather skirts, messy wet hair. red lipstick and fur portray a woman caught in a critical, life-changing situation. But this danger is softened by a disheveled collar, a pair of slouchy pants, a dropped shoulder, an oversized coat. Either this woman just randomly slipped into some clothes, sleep-drunk and a little bit confused – or – it is a clever game of composed rebellion – a woman that plays tricks on us. A tactic to succeed. A woman who would kill for that dress. The choice of which scenario holds truth, in the end, is in the eye of the beholder. There is no right or wrong, nor woman or girl, no fun or business – it is everything at once. In your head and in your face. Who does not want to be this woman who can be whoever she wants to be? And that is the success formula of Prada: Lolita or femme fatale? It is your choice.

Pow. Boom. Bang. There is another integral part to this composition: pattern and colour. Crazy pattern and crazy colour. Let's call it 'Prada Psychedelia'. Throughout the years, Miuccia Prada is openly performing her inner fight of two sides: minimalism and baroque exuberance. One season might appear stripped-down, plain and simple. One season later we will be facing the exact opposite. An explosion and celebration of love, sex and sunshine. Striped summer dresses, op-art power suits and wallpaper prints. We are thrown into a wild mix of TV commercials, the life of the rich and famous, interior decoration and trompe l'œil: 'Girls just wanna have fun'. While her approach is perceived as clever and intellectual, Miuccia successfully maintains an ever-current relevance for the real customer out there: the party girl, the trend setter, the street style clique. Clothes as items that pop, that stand-out, that scream 'Look at me! I am wearing Prada!'.

So how to put it in one line? Retro Futurism? Surreal Pop? Baroque Minimalism? Gradually, an idea becomes manifest: Prada is 'either nor'. The perfect description for a luxury empire with such street credibility. The perfect term for a generation that cannot and does not have to decide. The perfect lifestyle for our information age: 'either nor'.

'Blood Is Thicker Than Water'

The little sister to the Prada empire, Miu Miu, was founded 1993 as diffusion line for a younger and more fashion-forward clientele. Accessory-driven and always focused on the edge of a sugar-coated life, Miu Miu has since presented colourful, experimental and surprising collections with collector's appeal.
Once you own an item of Miu Miu, it is yours forever – or at least it should be. While the menswear line has been discontinued but is rumoured to have a comeback, the women's line is stronger than ever – with campaigns shot by Bruce Weber (partly censored due to the model's young age) and testimonials such as Selma Blair and Chloë Sevigny. No matter if one likes to call her cute 'little sister' or mean and vicious 'step-daughter' – Miu Miu is the muse and leading style inspiration for the whole Prada universe. The quintessential trend. Its elements are slightly softened and paired down in the Prada mainline, yet, topics and themes re-appear. Just recently, both lines featured David Bowie inspired op-art suits. The message is clear: A girl can steal from her mother's closet. And vice versa!

'The Friend Of My Friend Is My Friend'

Miuccia likes to surround herself with collaborators, friends and protégés. And when they come together, it is more than fashion. It's about life, culture and the arts. Imagine a decadent, luxurious dining table. Miuccia is sitting at the very end. To her left and right: Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Jeroen Koolhaas and J. W. Anderson. Let's meet her guests. First, the infamous artist couple Elmgreen and Dragset who has built 'Marfa' – a fully equipped Prada store in the middle of the desert. Located in a remote area where only trucks pass by, it promises the full range of the Prada universe: accessories, bags, shoes – shining bright through the illuminated shop windows. The silver Prada logo glistering in the desert sun. Leaving us grasping and thirsty for more. Yet, this store is never open. A Fata Morgana, a mirage in the middle of nowhere. A temple of anti-consumerism. A practical joke. Now, everyone is laughing at the table.

The main course is served. Let's talk with another guest: Jeroen Koolhaas. His father is the legendary Rem Koolhaas, an architect and thought-leader. A theoretical mastermind who is building the urban future. His son, Jeroen, is an artist. He is the creator behind all the Prada look books that are handed out in stores. Art. Free for all. Jeroen takes the Prada runway pictures and cuts them apart. He uses Greek sculptures as models and places grid lines on faces. He adds glowing planets to the background and reverses the colours. He turns the reality of Prada back into the dreams they sprung from. Now, everyone at the dinner table feels a little bit melancholic. J. W. Anderson breaks the silence and rises to speak. Celebrated for his head-turning designs (his boys wear ruffled shorts and blouse-y tops), the London designer subverts gender codes – and has just taken over the artistic lead at Versus by Versace. Miuccia smirks. In fact, Jonathan William initially started his career as visual merchandiser. For Prada. Styling the shopping windows that make everyone wanting so much more. Miuccia is proud. Dessert is served. Chocolate cake and strawberries. Everyone is happy.

'Everything Is Possible'

Every Prada fashion show takes place at the same venue: the headquarters on Via Fogazzaro, Milan. Yet, the scenery looks totally different each time. It changes form, colour and shape season for season – almost like a space-age holo deck. The only thing remaining are concrete pillars in the middle of the space, holding the construction together. A visual sign for the fact that this is the right place to be. So why does the space change constantly? Miuccia is, once again, playing tricks on us, psychological tricks. By staging the space, decorating the walls, placing furniture, carpets or video projections she triggers our imagination. Guests that are arriving start guessing: What is this all about? Why grass? Why steel? Why chessboard floors? The theme of the collection is revealed not yet entirely revealed. For Fall/Winter 2013, Prada went one step further. And created a whole furniture collection that was placed along the runway. Little living room instalments. Armchairs and tables. Pale blue, mustard yellow, salmon pink. A limited edition of furniture created in collaboration with Knoll and OMA – the design enterprise of Rem Koolhaas. Prada is a lifestyle that expands beyond the limits of clothes and fashion. Could Prada be a complete life model? We will decide if this wish comes true.

'The Time Is Now'

Miuccia Prada has shown us what the future holds. What we should wear tomorrow, how we should live tomorrow. How we should travel, how we should smell. How we should perceive reality. How we should understand irony. How we should love kitsch and hate good taste. Boredom. Fascination. Thrill. Miuccia Prada shows us everything and reveals nothing. She empowers us to define who we are and who we want to be. May it be for one day, one night, or forever. By referring to retro codes, 50s patterns, and 1920s silhouettes, her futuristic designs still feel grounded and 'real'. Fantasies that are possible, dreams that are happening right now. Miuccia gives us everything we need for the future. Let's take it.