PARIS, France — According to the words that accompanied her new Miu Miu collection, Miuccia Prada was making the idea of the charm offensive an actual thing, a resistance-is-futile effort to compel an uplift of spirit. A wholesale surrender to enjoyment.
Coming towards the end of Paris Fashion Week, with the tenor of the times almost as dark as it was during the first Gulf War or 9/11, Miuccia’s instinct was oddly apt. During the Blitz in London, nightclubs were packed. While the Titanic was sinking, the band played on.
She wasn’t the only designer to tap that vein this season. Dries and Rick did it brilliantly as well, plucking the diamond of hope from the mine of despair. But she came at it from a state of mind that was saturated with her own experience: political activism, social upheaval, the cultural embrace of decadence as a response to a stagnating status quo.
Frédéric Sanchez created a soundtrack that channelled the playlist of every painted, platform-shoed, opiated child of the early '70s: David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul”, Lou Reed’s “Lady Day”, Mick Ronson’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”, Roxy Music’s “Bittersweet”, and – pièce de résistance – Liza Minnelli, vamping her way through “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret”, the ultimate party piece in grotty little apartments all over the world in 1972.
But there was no nostalgia here. Then, it was the '70s filtering the '20s and it was savage. Now, it was the '20s filtering the '70s filtering the '20s and it was fierce all over again. Miu Miu’s first look featured a floor-length sheath in wrinkled satin, draped in an overcoat. It was a true morning-after look, Lady Day making her exhausted way home, her horn player’s coat on her shoulders. The rest of the show sustained that tension, a dialogue between the pure pleasure of the night, and the pay-off, the comedown when the piper at the gates of dawn demands payment. Casting familiar faces like Pixie Geldof and Rita Ora amplified the showiness of the concept. So did the set. It’s a wonder how Prada’s decor elves can time after time transform the Art Deco bones of the Palais D’Iena into a grandiose new world.
This time, it actually was Art Deco, like a majestic 1920s movie theatre, reflecting the tailored languor of the clothes, or the Hollywood pin-up rah-rah of Bella and Adut in their knit onesies, though by the time Kaia Gerber glided past in a tubular black skirt topped with a sheer, crystallised top, you’d twigged it wasn’t the '20s, it was once again the '30s that had captured Miuccia’s imagination, as they seemed to have with her signature collection last week. The '30s: one giant societal hangover, a petri dish for global catastrophe. It was a resonant chord that Miuccia Prada struck as the curtain began its fall for Autumn/Winter 2020. Any charm offensive is going to need real fangs to cope.