I'm always fascinated by the perverse ways in which Miuccia Prada can (almost too easily...) sell to fashion critics her collections. According to the fashion media, every Prada collection is an absolute winner, every piece seems to be desirable, every accessory an absolute and previously unseen must.
Yet the more I look at Prada's stuff, the more I think that Miuccia and her team deserve some praise for the way they always manage to “remix” old ideas and past trends and make them desirable again for a new generation of fashion critics/stylists/bloggers/consumers with very little knowledge of fashion history.
Take Prada's Spring/Summer 2013 collection: last week we have seen in Milan a series of minimalist and austere kimono-inspired stiff mini-dresses and blouses made with panels reeking of André Courrèges, but remixed in a modernist/Pop Art key (or were the graphic daisies/appliqued flowers borrowed from some kind of cutesy manga character?), all matched with tabi socks in bright red or in metallic shades worn in some cases with embellished towering zori-style footwear that may have been borrowed from the set of some kind of sci-fi film.
Some may argue that this is the 2.0 version of that same Japonism that fascinated the art and fashion scenes between the final decades of the 1800s and the early decades of the 1900s. Yet the footwear revealed very precise inspirations.
Rather than the iconic Ganguro girls in extreme Buffalo boots, Miuccia probably had in mind several types of footwear and eventually came up with designs that rolled up into one XVII century shoes (View this photo), 50 cm high mules donned by Venetian ladies and courtesans (View this photo), shoes from the Ming dynasty, glam 1942 silver sandals by I.Miller (View this photo) and Salvatore Ferragamo's “Kimo” sandals.
Patented by Ferragamo in 1951 (yes, patented – but don't tell Ferragamo...) and donned during a catwalk show by Schuberth, the sandals, formed by interlaced satin strips, included a close fitting kidskin or satin stocking inspired by Japanese tabi socks in a variety of colours and materials.
The shoe became quickly fashionable at the time (even though Ferragamo ended up in court as another Florentine shoemaker, Frattegiani, accused him of having copied their Pinturicchio design, consisting in a similar shoe designed in 1950): by changing the sock and opting for a tobacco, black, white, lace or embroidered and sequinned one, the shoe could be adapted to day or evening wear. Besides, it was also possible to wear the sandal without the sock or to fling off the sandal and just wear the sock to carry out other activities such as relaxing or even dancing.
The principle, as you can see from the Ferragamo pictures in this post, is the same applied in Prada's shoes made to look as if thongs were worn over a pair of leather socks (though it must be said that when the socks were worn on their own they had an uncanny resemblance to Courrèges' space age boots...).
Among the best examples we have a blue and silver kidskin sandal on hand-painted platforms by Julianelli (1965; characterised by a shape that became mainstream fashion in the late '60s/early '70s) and a reinvention of the chopine by Evins/I.Miller (1965), originally an ancient Oriental shape designed to keep the feet dry in wet and dirty streets, recreated as a wood and kidskin sandal ideal to wear with patterned leotards.
The '70s actually saw an explosion of Oriental inspirations in footwear thanks to wooden platform sandals by Ken Scott, while Victor Joris recreated the kimono as a jumpsuit and matched it with silky boots (1971) and Herbert Levine came up with the Mu Gee, a sandal with a red lacquer platform decorated with a sort of ziggurat motif.
As for tabi leather socks, while tabi boots became a staple in Martin Margiela's collections especially during the '90s, the most convincing accidental reinterpretation of a leather sock came courtesy of Bless: the design duo published in the Autumn-Winter 1999-2000 issue of Made in the USA magazine a collection of items found in "unfashionable" shops, among them also a series of leather socks.
So, while Prada's SS 13 shoes may be the blockbusters of the next season (though you can easily buy tabi shoes on eBay for a fraction of what the Prada ones will be sold at and be already fashionable now...) making buyers, retailers and shareholders happy, consumers will once again enter the future through a reinvented past. Yet who cares, Miuccia may ask: after all the most important thing in contemporary fashion is just believing you are donning a glimpse of the future, even while wearing a glamorously metallic remixed, revamped and embellished vision of the past.Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
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