“These days, everyone comes perfectly out of a box, complete with a stylist and a makeup artist,” Shirley Manson once told me of our current roster of pop phenomena. “Nobody is stumbling about, making mistakes and doing ridiculous things like we did in the 1990s.” She’s right; the period during which Manson rose to fame – alongside women like Gwen Stefani, Björk and Fiona Apple – saw a particular and charmingly haphazard type of raver dress descend down MTV’s red carpets: sarongs paired with sportswear, and club makeup preferred over contouring. “Looking back at the pictures now, it’s patently obvious that we did it ourselves, but there was a certain uniqueness about each person as a result.”
This complete eclecticism and easy eccentricity is notably what marked Miu Miu’s Croisière 2017 collection, which came complete with the woven flatforms and hippy embellishments that decorated those women. It was 90s to the max – clearly, that era is where Mrs Prada’s attentions are lingering at the moment – but rather than bearing any particular parity to the pensive collection that she presented a few weeks ago, this felt like an irreverent celebration of that pop-culture period of freedom and feminine strength. After all, Miu Miu is Prada’s teenage daughter and, just two weeks after a cerebral Prada show that meditated on the same era, it seemed that Mrs Prada was cementing that difference.
The Miu Miu Club
Before anything else, it would be oblique not to mention the setting within which Miu Miu elected to present this season’s Croisière: an opulent member’s club stationed on the Champs-Élysées, once a home away from home for aristocratic travellers. Of course, cruise collections have recently become a way for various brands to flex their creative (and commercial) muscle – Louis Vuitton flying everyone over to Rio, Christian Dior holding court at Blenheim Palace, Gucci renting out Westminister Abbey (did anyone even know you could do that?) – and, in their own way, Miu Miu was doing the same. But the first Miu Miu Club was held in London in 2012, to such resounding success than every fashion week someone seems to longingly mention its name (it was a three-day women’s members club held at The Café Royale featuring Michelin-starred meals available at all hours, floor after floor of cocktails and canapés, and the most beautiful seafood bar outside of J Sheekey) – and this was its resurrection.
There were gaming tables and champagne cocktails, a buffet courtesy of Margot Henderson and a four-piece string orchestra (later, Kate Moss and Paul Simonon arrived to DJ and various TV screens started playing the football, and the atmosphere somewhat shifted), but most of all there were lots of Miu Miu women, from Stacy Martin to Amber Valletta and Soko, having quite a fabulous time. “It feels like being at home,” remarked Adwoa Aboah, who was stationed with her sisters and Snapchatting with Marc Jacobs and Hamish Bowles from a four-poster bed. And, come 11pm – with half the guests dancing to Katy Perry like it was 1999, and half sitting upon chaise-longues watching Iceland v France, it really did: like being at the most fabulous house party imaginable.
Once you ascended the giant staircase formed of yellow onyx, and navigated past the string quartet, you arrived within a room hosted by the series of 40 fibreglass mannequins sprawling across sofas and unnervingly huddling in imagined conversations. These were the women who formed the static presentation of Croisière and their somewhat sinister, shimmering faces came courtesy of Matty Bovan: the young, London-based artist who stylist Katie Grand has commissioned only days before to create them.
“I was originally meant to be coming to the party as a guest,” he explained, “but then Katie asked me to send some proposals and then three days ago I came to Paris, to the studio here, and got going!” Thus, these “chic but weird” figures were born, their faces decorated with acetate and Croisière's embellishments, their hair made from strings of melted plastic and clay, and the reworking of a surreal nineties, DIY ebullience through the lens of Parisian opulence was visually complete.
While these mannequins were determinedly naïve (at least, in the painterly sense), the clothes felt similarly and intentionally so: there were the sorts of crop-tops one might have found in Camden Market elevated through their perfect mohair fabrication, and anoraks and low-slung shorts made of doppio satin – the super-luxe sort rarely found outside of the Vatican. Plastic bangles and beaded necklaces of the type familiar to those with a jewellery kit were positively piled on with brilliant exuberance – but, upon closer inspection, there was all the refinement one would, of course, expect from the brand.
Pretty sequinned tea dresses lay underneath shimmering gilets, opulent diamante stilettoes appeared beneath sprouting, multicoloured feathers, richly embroidered Indian embellishments decorated raver hats, and there was a black satin, thoroughly nineties two-piece that was completely covetable both then and now. Those ballerina pumps and fluffy sandals that have seemingly become an immediate Miu Miu staple became rubber-soled platforms and even fluffier sandals respectively. “Fun,” said Mrs Prada, “Energetic. Positive” – and it certainly was, that positive energy that she expressed through Prada S/S17 seen through the lens of the Miu Miu girl. Once you saw the clothes worn by Adwoa, or her sisters, or any of the custom-dressed starlets mingling throughout the club, they became wonderfully real: a positive assertion of independence, irreverence and individuality. It’s that same style that women like Manson and Stefani pioneered in their time, that good vibes approach to fashion which celebrates the unconventional and the kaleidoscopic. It’s that message that saturated everything at The Miu Miu Club, from the oyster bar to the football screens: the Miu Miu girl does what she likes, and she does it with glee. And that was refreshing, to say the least.