Well, it’s not exactly about ‘nothing’ but ‘something’, and the ‘something’ happens to be skirts. But not just any skirts … I’m talking about a well-edited museum quality selection of 100 Miuccia Prada skirts, culled from about 30 collections, dating back to 1988 that are part of a traveling installation, “Waist Down: Skirts by Miuccia Prada”. (So, why you ask, didn’t I entitle this, “Skirting the Issue”? Oh, c’mon, that’s too obvious and predictable, isn’t it? And actually, Style.com and WWD beat me to it).
And it’s not exactly nothing, but ‘something’, when the woman who is arguably the most influential fashion force on the planet (so influential is she, where Miuccia goes, everyone follows; so much so that I’m afraid that if she said, “Jump off the Brooklyn Bridge!”, many of her loyal fans would do so) makes a rare trip from Milan to New York and is special guest at a party in her honor, as was the case last night. The occasion was the reopening of her experimental Soho flagship (575 Broadway at Prince Street), which was damaged by a five alarm fire on January 21. To mark the event, about 1000 of her ‘nearest and dearest’ (it was most of New York by my estimates and nope – it was hardly an intimate exclusive affair) were invited to revel from 6:30PM and on into the night, take in the Rem Koolhaas (the store’s architect) conceived exhibit which creatively shows off the skirts to their best advantage, try to navigate through the gallery-like store (if you could find a place to walk that is), nibble on raw shrimp, oysters, asparagus with a truffle sauce, sip cream of mushroom soup, and toast the event from an open bar.
It was spirited, crowded, and noisy – both inside and out (there were vocal protesters outside protesting Prada’s use of baby seals, but that certainly didn’t stop the invited guests from the worlds of fashion, art, and society, from entering). And, though many did comply with the evening’s theme (skirts), just as many did not feel compelled to do so (and I’m not just talking about the guys). Miuccia Prada actually selected pants for the evening (no, of course I’m kidding – what do you think she was wearing?) On the fashion end, there was Cathy Hardwick, an avowed fan who nonetheless told me that she would not wear a circle skirt because, as she puts it, she’s too short so she only wears narrow skirts which are “lengthening”; In Style’s Cindy Weber Cleary (in pants), Elle’s Style Director Isabel Dupre in skintight jeans and Chanel backpack, Bergdorf Goodman’s Fashion Director Linda Fargo in a black tunic and pants, Paper Magazine’s Mickey Boardman (in pants), Visi onaire’s Cecelia Dean in a glittery skirt and high heeled sandals, Vogue’s Anna Wintour in a pale frothy Prada skirt ensemble though Andre Leon Talley and Grace Coddington opted for trousers), Ebay’s chic style director Constance White (in a colorful belted trench), FIT’s Dr. Valerie Steele (who did take the theme of the exhibit seriously and wore a decorated circle skirt), and downtown art maven Yvonne Force Villareal (in a black dress). Social fixture and professional platinum blonde poser Tinsley Mortimer (who literally never met a party she didn’t like) dressed in a breezy and bare dress mugged obligingly for the paparazzi.
But the highlight of the fete was not the guest list as much as the artfully arranged skirts which were literally displayed all over the store – in windows, staircases, walls, hung over the bar, suspended from ceilings, and arranged in one enormous elevator (my favorite passage by the way). I almost expected to find them in the powder room as well but, alas, there were none there.
The exhibit, which has already been to Tokyo and Shanghai, and will be on view to the public starting today through May 31, is also proof and living testament to the timelessness of an item, regardless of the current ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, mood, themes, or trends within the fickle world of fashion.
Miuccia is among those designers (like Marc Jacobs), who admittedly go against what they previously did the season before, and one never knows what they will be treated to on the runway – the fashion flock is always kept in suspense up until the last moment. (Case in point, Miuccia’s fall edict is that she is tired of the ladylike and sweet side of things and now wants to see her girls dressed for business in clothing that is more sober and stronger in feeling). But notwithstanding this fact, and the designers’ current fascination with the practicality and comfort of pants, the visually arresting circular skirts that were suspended from ceilings, perched on pedestals, mounted on illuminated mannequins, or exaggeratedly presented in blown-up photographs were decidedly and unapologetically feminine, decorative, joyful, entertaining, and festive. And great timing too because nothing announces the advent of spring better than a rustling skirt.
Regardless of what Miuccia deems to be proper attire for the moment, skirts never lose their appeal and also happen to be the designer’s signature. Along with her beloved coats, skirts not only form the backbone of a Prada collection, but are her uniform of choice (indeed, for most occasions – even the most formal – Miuccia will wear a skirt, a simple shirt or sweater, pulled together with offbeat accessories and high heeled shoes of one kind of another).
And regardless of the popularity, informality, ease, and practicality that pants or jeans provide, undeniably, there is nothing like a skirt with movement and volume (be it circular, pleated, A-lined, petti-coated, balloon shaped) to really put a gal in the right frame of mind and uplift her spirits (as well as those around her).