Here’s a riddle: what is it that strikes us odd about Prada’s and Miu Miu’s recently unveiled Pre-Fall 2009 collections? Ironically, it’s their utter lack of oddball qualities. We know that Pre-Fall is basically a convenient commercial stopgap measure of a season — even more trivial a seasonal pursuit than Resort — but in the past Miuccia always found a way to transform even a secondary collection into a something strangely desirable for her perennial fantasy clientele of nerdy nymphets. But this time? She resisted sweet subversion. This time, Miuccia did the unthinkable: she played it safe. The results? Two collections which are pleasingly generic, completely levelheaded, and therefore, a little dismaying.
First the good news: at least for Miu Miu’s pre-fall looks, Miuccia throws us a bit of a twist: though she revisits Prada’s Little Sister’s familiar school-girl aesthetic, this time it has a distinctly darker, polished edge — think Wednesday Adams goes to prep school. With Mongolian fur vests (yes, Miuccia’s penchant for fur has returned, sadly), studded coats and accessories, and stern Peter Pan collars juxtaposed against all the fur chubbies flirty hem lengths, Miu Miu’s familiar noir Lolita look impressively endures. Plus, we really enjoyed the leg-warmers — nineties trend revival alert, anyone?
On the other hand, main line Prada’s Pre-Fall looks are sterile, stern, and almost entirely out of character with Miuccia’s quirky legacy. While Spring 2009’s gold foil dresses certainly polarized devotees, critics, stylists, and buyers alike, there’s no denying that they were one of the very few definitive, directional looks of a season where too few snubbed the status quo. But this time around, Prada’s fur-trimmed, semi-equestrian garments bear almost none of quirks of their creator; the dusters could easily fit into a Consuelo Castiglioni era Marni collection, while the cropped riding jackets and stocking caps — believe it or not — could fit well into one of Ralph Lauren’s recent seasons. Miuccia doing unironic sportswear? Say it isn’t so.
For continuity’s sake, a few fleeting nods to trademark Prada staples appear — the saggy knee socks, the rumpled “matronly” skirts, respectively. But for the most part, Pre-Fall Prada seemed designed around the types of unobtrusive, jaunty things Caroline Kennedy might wear to a country house party in mid-October. Stronger jolts of color could have made the sober, structural looks much more playful, but the bare-bones palette was limited strictly to rustic seasonal hues, mainly favoring deep berry hues and sullen greys and blacks. Ultimately, clever styling did the trick, but barely: Pre-Fall 2009 Prada still came off as a satisfactory albeit unremarkable and traditional collection.
And therein lies the problem: when a tastemaker like Miuccia Prada plays by the rules, we can’t help but worry what it means for those who follow her footsteps.
Photos courtesy of WWD.