Miuccia Prada's spring 2014 line, shown in Milan as part of Milan Fashion week, has a fairly overt feminist message. Several of the looks featured bras worn as outerwear, a subversive and confident take on traditional femininity. The collection also featured knitted prints of women's faces, athletic socks, and a fair share of sparkles. "Work, Bitch" by Britney Spears was on the soundtrack; the models all looked assertive, confident, poised. Afterwards, Prada stated, "I want to inspire women to struggle."
A lot of this collection was ugly, in the best possible way — that paradoxically breathtaking, thought-provoking form of ugliness that Miuccia Prada does so well. In an interview with the Telegraph's Stella magazine last month, Prada discussed the artistry in embracing ugliness:
Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer... The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human.
It touches the bad and the dirty side of people. You know, this might have been a scandal in fashion but in other fields of art it is common: in painting and in movies it was so common to see ugliness.
But, yes, it was not used in fashion and I was very much criticised for inventing the trashy and the ugly.
She also discussed her feminist beliefs and how she struggled in the fashion industry because of them:
When I started, 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... I suppose I felt guilty not to be doing something more important, more political. So in a way I am trying to use the company for these other activities.
There's something very radical about a vocally feminist woman openly defying industry norms; espousing the value of ugliness and trashiness in the fashion world is to take an almost political stance. In this collection, it definitely invites feminist interpretation — at The Cut, for instance, Stella Bugbee decides that "it's a comment on the confusion of modern womanhood — glamour, sport, girlishness, sex, purity."
On Style.com, Tim Blanks offers some commentary as well, although his is rather out-of-touch and completely insipid:
Because she works in fashion, it's easy to forget how political a creature Miuccia Prada has always been... Tonight, she continued on that course... making a feminist statement that, in the light of the contemporary denigration of the very notion, came across as radical.
The last time feminism enjoyed any popular currency might have been with the Riot Grrrls in the early nineties.
The last time feminism enjoyed any popular currency might have been with the Riot Grrrls in the early nineties. The last time feminism enjoyed any popular currency might have been with the Riot Grrrls in the early nineties. If you say it three times in a mirror, you summon a blood-besmeared MRA who bludgeons you while yelling about affirmative action.
Has Tim Blanks been living under a (very stylish, tastefully bedazzled) rock? Did he hit his head on a copy of Lean In and develop selective amnesia? Obviously not everyone in the world — and perhaps especially not people in the fashion world — is feminism's biggest fan, but to claim that the movement has enjoyed absolutely no popular currency since BEFORE TAVI WAS EVEN BORN is myopic, ridiculous, and just plain wrong.