The Miu Miu Show That Fused Swan Lake Dancers and Sumo Wrestlers

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Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2008

As Miu Miu’s new campaign launches, we look back at the brand’s Spring/Summer 2008 show, which mixed girls in French-maid costumes, Playboy Bunnies and Burning Man festival goers

In October 2007, Miu Miu debuted one of its most memorable collections, for Spring/Summer 2008. Arriving nearly 15 years after the brand’s founding, it came at a time when the Prada offshoot, described by the label as “the most unrestrained portrayal of Miuccia Prada’s creativity”, was beginning to solidify its associations with wonder, playfulness and addictive contradictions – along with a certain twisted notion of girlhood. At this show, Miuccia Prada fused myriad aesthetics – from ballerinas to harlequins, among others – conjuring up images of French maids and nightlife via girlish trapeze dresses and sheer-collared blouses.

Kirsten Dunst starred in the collection’s accompanying campaign, which was photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott: with Dunst pictured on a red floor, with a Lynchian curtain in the backdrop, the images evoked the world of theatre, full of magic and mystery. At the time, Miu Miu was expanding in the US and cast the American actress as the face of the brand, replacing the sultry French model Laetitia Casta. Here, in the wake of Miu Miu’s latest campaign – its A/W20 visuals photographed by Nikolai von Bismarck, Steve Mackey, Liz Collins and Gigi Hadid – we look back on this show and collection in further detail.

The Show

Miuccia Prada had long been using Miu Miu as a space to explore whimsy, fantasy and lightheartedness in fashion: here, she took it to another level, delivering a pure moment of fantasy. The show opened with model Lara Stone in a pair of black satin high-waisted shorts with a blossoming red cape in red gazar, in what was a vision of a modern Little Red Riding Hood.

“What do Swan Lake dancers, sumo wrestlers, a girl in a French-maid costume, Playboy Bunnies, and a Burning Man festival goer have in common?” wrote Vogue’s Nicole Phelps of the show. “Not much, unless you’re Miuccia Prada.”

Backstage, Miuccia Prada told reviewers she was thinking of “life as theatre, and all the clichés of how people represent themselves in the world”. In turn, pieces in the collection mirrored the costumes of certain performers: there were the little slippers and exaggerated peplums that recalled ballerinas and circus performers, detached collars that become less prim and proper when shown against bare skin, and baby-size bloomers.

The show alluded to the idea of reinterpreting masquerades in real life. The contrast seen in the collection was equally as important. Soft cream mixed with midnight black and scarlet red, elsewhere the silhouettes were either playfully youthful or strikingly sexy. Taking even more inspiration from life as theatre, looks took inspiration from waitresses, trapeze artists, cardinals, Swan Lake and acrobats.

As for the backdrop, the show itself took place in the stunning Baroque rooms of a mansion in Paris on Avenue Foch, where AMO collaborated with the brand to create a sort of “interior stage” for the occasion. Photographs and films of the characters Miuccia Prada took inspiration from were projected onto a screen: classical ballerinas, sumo wrestlers, Burning Man attendees and swimmers flew by in repeated clips as models made their way along the runway.

The People

There was no shortage of it-girl models walking the catwalk. Stone opened the show followed by Jessica Stam, Raquel Zimmermann, Lily Donaldson, Isabeli Fontana, Natasha Poly and Hanne Gaby Odiele. Longtime Miuccia Prada muse Sasha Pivovarova closed the show in a Black Swan-esque black ruffled peplum miniskirt. American actor Adrien Brody – at the height of his fame – sat in the front row with his then-girlfriend, actress Elsa Pataky.

With make-up, imagined by Pat McGrath, there was just as much emphasis on contrast. Some models wore matte red lips juxtaposed with bleached-blonde brows, while others showcased a take on the theatrical inspirations: lips were lined on the bottom in black and on the top in red, and the centre was left in a natural tone, paired with a greyish-white thick line of floating liner just above the crease of the eye. Some had their cherry red lips lined in black liner on the bottom, mirroring the wildly illustrative patterns on the garments. Hair stylist Guido Palau kept the hair minimal, either pulled back into a low ponytail or chignon, or side swept with a messy fringe.

In complete contrast to the theatrical aesthetic, dance music blared while models walked down the runway – D.A.N.C.E. by the then-popular French dance duo Justice was one of the most memorable tracks of the show.

The Impact

Since Miuccia Prada launched Miu Miu in 1993, she has created a world filled with contrasts and the S/S08 show reflected that, offering up a vision of acrobats, trapeze artists and harlequins, juxtaposed with an outline for the modern woman’s day-to-day wardrobe.

Though the fabrics, prints, colours and silhouettes often clashed, it nonetheless came together in unexpected manner. As Suzy Menkes wrote for The New York Times after the show: “A sly, fetishistic sexuality filled the Miu Miu collection where ultra-short skirts were a parody of French maids’. The models walked with their derrieres covered with rompers and their wrists and ankles bound with snowy white lacy cuffs. Miuccia Prada, for whom Miu Miu is an increasingly assertive part of her oeuvre, is both explicit and implicit in her collections.”

The Miu Miu brand has become synonymous with a kind of youthfulness – the shoes and accessories for S/S08 reflected that idea: the heels had handles, almost like tea cups; strappy sandals were covered in leather beaded dragonflies; bags were embellished with butterfly motifs. Many of the standout accessories of the S/S08 show are considered collector’s items by Miu Miu fanatics till this day – some even use the dragonfly covered shoes as decorations for their home.