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Mooching and Marauding at Miu Miu A/W16

Susannah Frankel travels the world through an exploration of Miu Miu's A/W16 collection, via 16th century Paris and fifties Hollywood

TextSusannah FrankelPhotographyJulien T HamonPhotographic EditorHolly Hay

“Nobility and misery,” were the words Miuccia Prada used to explain her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection for Miu Miu. Was she proposing that beauty and a certain hauteur in the way people – and women in particular – present themselves as a means of softening the blow of challenging times? Perhaps. She also said that she wanted the Miu Miu show, which this time, as always, closed the season, to be “fun,” however. And that it was. It also certainly crossed borders. Anglophilia, Francophilia and Americana all had their place here, at least some of them in a single exit. And so too, of course, did Italy. Prada remains very much an Italian name. Here was Prada the marauder, then, in all her glory, Miuccia mooching, expressing culture through cloth just as she is wont to do, blazing a trail through time and across continents, proving that fashion may be just as international an affair aesthetically as it is economically.

Vive la France
The nobility part of the equation may well have referred to oversized duster coats and narrow, high-waisted ankle-length skirts referencing Gobelin tapestry, considered the finest in sixteenth and seventeenth Century France and most famous for supplying upholstery to the court of Louis IV, the Sun King which is certainly grand. It was here reinvented in myriad ways. There was a flamboyancy to ruched and puffed dresses, meanwhile, that also evoked frou-frou French fashion, all interpreted in the slightly off way that this designer understands well. Black stockings under a jacket sans skirt was similarly Parisienne – though the bourgeois French femme fatale would be unlikely ever to wear them purposefully wrinkled at the knees. In 2006, the Miu Miu ready-to-wear presentation moved from Milan to Paris. This was among the most significant steps in establishing itself as a distinct entity from Prada, not to mention raising its game by showing alongside the world’s most celebrated luxury brands. Its debut there was shown in a traditional café environment and Miuccia Prada spoke of Miu Miu’s Gallic tendencies, of its affinity with the haute couture tradition, its unashamed femininity and coquettish, even mischievous charm… In 2014 Miu Miu’s headquarters moved to the French capital also and it now shows pre- and resort collections in that city also.

An English Sensibility 
There was more than a nod to the British aristocracy here, too, in tweedy suits as worn by HRH Elizabeth II – frumpy and funny the way only Miuccia Prada knows how: jodhpurs, Argyle knits, military tailoring in heavy Savile Row wools and waxed coats and jackets with opulent fox fur collars and cuffs. The latter were among the finest pieces in the collection. This was equally the story behind polite ropes of pearls worn with cardigans and sweaters with oversized frilled collars in pale primrose, damson and leaf green. Again this is not the first time Miu Miu has looked in this direction. Only two seasons ago, the type of pie-crust collars worn by a young Lady Diana Spencer made a typically twisted appearance giving rise to copious newspaper column inches; the British press can’t get enough of such Anglophile referencing after all. Finally, there was a make-do-and-mend quality to the collection as a whole, a sense of borrowing a boyfriend’s shirt or oversized jumper and wearing it with nothing more obviously dressed up than a pair of fluffy flat slippers that is very English in its sensibility.

Hybrid denim/varsity jackets embroidered with the names of Hollywood movie stars – Roy [Rodgers], John [Wayne], Gene [Kelly] and so forth. Just denim which, although the name derives from cotton de Nimes, is more readily associated with American workwear. It was here in the form of buttoned up shirts worn under aforementioned knits, more that were western in flavour, maxi coats and skirts. The aforementioned fur trim on jackets and coats was also very much of the decadent silver screen variety. It is a signature at both Prada and Miu Miu by now. There was an all-American pin-up quality to hair and make-up also – a modern-day Betty Grable and Doris Day sprung to mind.

Made in Italy  
If the more strident looks were indebted to Americana, the embonpoint created by low-cut, sweetheart necklines and comparatively voluptuous casting whispered Gina Lollobrigida. In a similar vein, French tapestry may have been Miuccia Prada’s reference of choice but the head-to-toe wearing of it in such a grand manner evoked the High Renaissance portraiture of Bronzino, as did rich velvet brocades. Purely geographically, for all its Parisian status today, Miu Miu was founded in Italy in 1993 and, any cross-cultural connotations aside, was designed at Prada’s headquarters in Milan. Most of the collection is produced in that country too. Because if France is home to haute couture, Italy in the mid-twentieth century was the place where designer ready-to-wear clothing really took off and for all the global nature of contemporary fashion Miuccia Prada has her roots there.