LONDON, United Kingdom — While Prada is busy reviving its fortunes with a creative symbiosis of past and future, tapping into its design roots, wrapping the hybrid results in a lively digital hubbub, kid sister Miu Miu has managed to capitalise on the momentum with a multi-faceted ad campaign for Autumn/Winter. It’s easy to imagine its splintery fusion of fashion, music and art proving particularly engaging for Miuccia herself, seeing how often Miu Miu has functioned as her own wayward fashion alter ego.
That alter ego marched brazenly up and down Miu Miu’s Autumn/Winter 2018 catwalk, an insolent bad-girl vision teleported from the Lower East Side 40 years ago, when New York’s artistic and musical avant-garde operated under the short-lived but highly influential label No Wave. Its spirit lives again in “Other Conversations,” the 15 short films and accompanying stills that Steve Mackey, Jeannette Lee and Douglas Hart have created for the Miu Miu campaign.
The trio collaborate as Call This Number, a pirate video set-up that broadcasts live performances, announced via social media, from a basement in Central London. They’re filmed on Sony Portapak cameras from the early '70s, “the kind Warhol used to be seen with,” says Mackey. “Lo-fi meets hi-fi — always good action there!”
If Warhol was the eminence grise of No Wave, his ghost might as well have been haunting Call This Number’s basement while they were filming the Miu Miu gang. You can feel Andy’s famous Screen Tests in the footage of Elle Fanning, the Aboah sisters or Georgia May Jagger posing slightly awkwardly while the camera stares unblinkingly at them. “Cotton Candy,” one of the “Other Conversations,” features a model whose furious strobe-lit dancing could be a clip from the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s multimedia happening featuring the Velvet Underground.
The soundtrack is the kind of anomic chitchat that characterised Warhol’s own films (“If I touched the lights, they would be like cotton candy”) and those of his many disciples in the No Wave movie scene. Mackey knows it well, and was thrilled that Miuccia gave him complete freedom to exercise his fanboyhood.
Warhol's ghost might as well have been haunting Call This Number’s basement while they were filming the Miu Miu gang.
The campaign had its own kind of symbiosis. Mackey is married to Katie Grand, Miu Miu’s creative director. She styled up the cast to recreate the catwalk looks from the show in March. The opportunity to revisit them is a reminder of how drolly provocative they are, challenging orthodoxies of taste and thought in Prada’s time-honoured tradition. There are similar challenges popping up all over the creative spectrum, mushrooms after the populist rain, but it’s specially tantalising to imagine a new underground taking shape in Call This Number’s basement.
It’s also appropriate that it should arrive attached to Miu Miu which, in its sheer cheek, has often seemed like a sly comment on the parent brand. Little sister no longer, now all grown up and ready to rumble with a world taken a sharp turn for the conservative. And if there is a shred of political activism in that, perhaps we can credit Miuccia Prada’s re-engagement with her own history.