There is an excellent documentary entitled Why a Film about Michele De Lucchi? directed by Alessio Bozzer that introduces people to the work of this wonderful Italian architect, designer and member of the Memphis Milano movement through an engaging interview. It's easy to wonder if Miuccia Prada watched it or if she re-read books about the Memphis Milano group if you consider Prada's Autumn/Winter 2015 collection.
In the new collection showcased during Milan Fashion Week, candyfloss pink, Prada green (two shades picked also for the drinks, the canapés and the surrounding spaces completed by an industrial metal flooring and a mesh ceiling for a modernist contrast), blue lagoon, primrose yellow, soft peach, emerald, chartreuse and rotting lime were combined together in a sort of arty semantics that mixed Karla Black and Pipilotti Rist.
The collection featured double-breasted jackets matched with cropped pants; shirts under tunic dresses; short coats and trenches in ostrich skin, A-line skirts and Empire line dresses decorated with fur or ribbon epaulettes (a reference to the Pre-Fall collection). Most of the pieces were made in a neoprene-like thick double-faced jersey fabric.
Emphasis was firmly on the accessories from the sunglasses and crocodile/ostrich opera gloves to the bags, the super-sized Perspex floral brooches/hair pins and shoes that included sandals or boots with thick Toblerone-like soles (similar to the ones seen at the menswear/Pre-Fall show, but in pastel/acid shades).
Apart from the new "genetically modified" neoprene-like fabric, there were also outsized herringbone acid tweeds (interspersed at times with fur strips) and dresses with a magnified digital print of a genetically modified molecule (note for consumers: it actually looks like genetically modified organisms will be a sub-trend for the next Autumn/Winter season, we have indeed seen this theme appearing also in Xiao Li's collection).
Some critics saw candies and macaroons in the pastel shades of this collection and, while Prada revealed the company has a sweet tooth since last March it acquired an 80% stake in Milan’s historical Pasticceria Marchesi and while Milan is reinventing itself as the city of fashion and food with the Expo 2015 approaching, the designer herself explained that this was about "soft pop", "variations on beauty", and the real Vs fake dichotomy, with some irony thrown in.
Yet rather than sugary candies or the artificial shades and plastic consistency of 3D printed food, rather than the combinations of soft pastels in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette or the weird palettes of Wes Anderson's films as conjured up by costume wizard Milena Canonero (who has just won another Academy Award for her costumes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, designed the costumes for Prada's Castello Cavalcanti and recently took part in The Iconoclasts project by Prada), there was also something else.
The sickeningly irresistible synthetic pastel colours and plastic embellishments pointed indeed towards the toy-like aesthetic of the interior design pieces designed in the '80s by the Memphis Milano group (think about Ettore Sottasass' "Ashoka" lamp or Marco Zanini's "Colorado" teapot), and in particular towards Michele De Lucchi's designs including his "Sinerpica" table lamp, "Riviera" chair or Girmi prototypes.
The pieces by the Memphis Milano group had one peculiarity about them: they often left people puzzled, wondering if they were toys or proper machines with any kind of function (in a nutshell, they put the viewer in front of the "real Vs fake" dilemma...).
The synthetic colours and shiny materials employed by Prada for the brooches also called to mind the shades of the plastic laminates by Abet Laminati, the company that turned the Memphis Milano crazy patterns into a tangible reality.
In a way it is only natural that Prada turned to such references since at the moment there is a strong correspondence (that started as a trend in fashion with Prada's Autumn/Winter 2013 menswear collection) between interior design and fashion.
It would actually be a fun exercise to try and forecast the next fashion trends just by looking at the interior design inspirations as posted on the Instagram/Facebook pages of specific designers. Images of assorted pieces of furniture and modernist interiors appear for example on the official Instagram page of the current Creative Director of Louis Vuitton Nicolas Ghesquière - one of the latest images he posted shows the flat on the 56th floor of Trump Tower designed in the mid-'80s by Cino Boeri and furnished with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair (wanna bet this inspiration will resurface in the next Louis Vuitton collection?).
It's not all about interior design, though. Most fashion critics marvel at Miuccia Prada saying it's impossible to predict things with her and try to read in her designs cryptic and conceptually intellectual messages that most times aren't simply there. Prada is indeed a talented remixer of past trends, but she also knows her references, and one of them must be Bruno Munari's book Fantasia (by the way, Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours", the only track by an Italian composer in Disney's Fantasia played on the runway soundtrack...a coincidence?).
In this slim volume Munari explains how the mind works when it comes to generating ideas and some of the key principles behind fantasy and imagination. Among the others Munari lists opposites and contrasts, visual affinities, material changes, variations of sizes and fusion of different elements in the same object.
These are more or less the same principles Miuccia Prada plays with in all her designs (think about the contrasts of colours employed in just one ensemble in this collection or how a complete outfit comprised seven or eight pieces), using references that she derives from several disciplines including art, architecture, cinema and design and making connections (the part about making connections is a key requisite of fantasy, Munari states, and something that too many fashion commentators and critics struggle to understand in Miuccia Prada's modus operandi).
In a nutshell, there are reasonable explanations behind the unusually surprising colours for this collection that, rather than provoking via patterns, colours and shapes, creating a new figurative language or being a vision of the future (guess we will need a few more years before we will be able to 3D print a Prada garment or accessory at home in just a few hours...), represent a vision of the past remixed, reinvented and repackaged as a commercial cold future that, sadly, doesn't even try to get on the establishment's nerves as the original Memphis Milano pieces did.
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