Among the many things that makes Miuccia Prada so brilliant, is her intuitiveness; her uncanny ability to shake things up, to surprise, to do the unexpected. And her great timing. On the eve of the opening of “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, an exhibition (and attending gala) devoted to all that is extravagant, extraordinary and exaggerated, leave it to Miuccia to show a resort collection that is unapologetic-ally simplified, basic, and stripped down.
And while the fashion world has been hyping the end of streetwear, sportswear, and athletic wear and touting the dressed up, glamorous, and sophisticated, leave it to MP to focus on the decidedly sporty and streetwise with a youthful collection predicated on borrowed tomboyish basics (over-sized jackets, striped buttons downs) accessorized with high top lace up sneakers no less. No doubt next season, or the one after that, Miuccia will contradict herself in terms of being more embellished, decorative, feminine, fancy, because she (and fashion) is all about that never ending swinging pendulum.
Of course, Ms. Prada, who put nylon on the map, has always been one to elevate the banal, mundane and common, beautify the ugly, flaunt tradition and basically NOT do what is expected. She remains one of- if not the most- highly influential fashion designers in the world; the ultimate feminist. This authoritative disrupter continually challenges herself and everyone else and she is showing no signs of slowing down, even as she turns 70 on May 10th.
She is in good company. Among the high profile celebrities who have, or will be turning 70 in 2019 are Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere, Wolfgang Puck, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Bridges, Lionel Ritchie. Other fashion figures who turn the big Seven-O this year: Paloma Picasso (April 19); Vera Wang (June 27); Twiggy (September 19); Annie Leibowitz (October 2); Anna Wintour (November 3), and me (I won’t disclose the date).
There, I’ve said it. Based on a friend’s reaction when I told her I was writing about it (she said I was “brave”) you’d think I was confessing to a double murder. Guess what? It’s a brave new world and I’ve never lied about my age so why start now? Anyway, if you know my resume, it would be fairly easy to figure it out. Plus, it’s too exhausting to lie (you have to have a good memory and remember all the ‘right’ dates you initially rattled off) and the bottom line is that quite frankly, I’d rather people think I look pretty good for 70 than horrible for 60.
If there was ever a great time to be a woman, and to be growing older it is now, Jane Fonda was chosen to grace the cover of an ‘ageless special’ supplement of British Vogue at the age of 81. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele tapped 77 year old Faye Dunaway to appear in his Sylvie bag campaign for spring 2018. There is far more acceptance, understanding, diversity, inclusion across the board not to mention changing attitudes, particularly in terms of the way women are treated by men and by other women. All of which makes British journalist Alexandra Shulman’s recent article in The Daily Telegraph criticizing 50 year old Helena Christensen for wearing what she deemed to be an age inappropriate, overly sexy lace bustier to Gigi Hadid’s recent denim themed 24th birthday party in New York all the more absurd and more like something out of the stone ages. Since when did she become the self-anointed chief of the fashion police?
Helena is a gorgeous woman who is still in her prime and she can really pull anything off. Do I think she might have looked more fabulous in something else? Yes, but that is completely beside the point. Helena was obviously happy with it, and anyway, it’s not like she committed a crime. The former supermodel toned down the sexy lace buster with her choice of wide legged high waisted jeans and flat sandals rather than pairing it with a thigh high mini and stilettos. She hardly looked like the “fleshpot at the party” that Shulman alluded to. In any case, I think there are far more pressing issues in the world to focus on than having a sartorial off day which we are all guilty of.
The positives of getting older are the gaining of experience, wisdom, understanding, self-acceptance, and a greater appreciation of everything. The bad news is that naturally, we don’t look the same as we did when we were younger. I wholly agree with Ms. Shulman that “There isn’t a guidebook on how brazenly women can dress as the years pass and neither should there be. Prescriptive rules and formulaic dressing for your age are dull.”
I certainly agree that “the clothes you wore at 20 will never look the same on you 30 years later”. But what made my eyes roll is her assessment that “you don’t have to condemn yourself to trench coats, navy blazers, and a crisp white shirt once you hit the big Five-O” as if those were the most hideous things one could possibly chose. It’s hard to believe that this 61 year old woman served as editor in chief of British Vogue and was the longest serving editor in their history. Ageless, timeless wardrobe staples such as these form the backbone of the chicest, best dressed women’s wardrobes and they are also the items that are tweaked and reinvented every season, including resort 2020, which began last week with a number of formal showings.
At the Chanel resort show in Paris which marked the first collection designed solely by Karl Lagerfeld’s successor Virginie Viard, there were a number of good looking earth toned cotton poplin trench coats and a smattering of crisp white shirts mixed in with the houses’ s signature tweeds, pastels, lace and frothy chiffon numbers. For the record, it was obvious that the collection was not designed by Karl Lagerfeld. We certainly have to give Ms. Viard a chance, but I was not blown away by what I saw.
Christian Dior’s extravaganza resort show, presented in Marrakesh, was about as nonbasic a collection as one could get. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s focus was on couture like workmanship, African artisan-ship, and African wax prints but there were some solid navy silk shantung pieces including a fitted Bar jacket.
At Prada’s formal resort 2020 presentation, which was shown in the company’s far west side headquarters, easy tent coats, masculine overcoats and elongated borrowed from the boys blazers (including one in navy shown on Gigi Hadid) were layered over crisp cotton shirtings (many of them striped), pleated skirts and shorts. By the way, in an interview with Miuccia that ran in WWD on Friday, Bridget Foley asked the designer what she thought of Alexandra Shulman’s comments about Helena Christensen being too old to wear a bustier in public. The designer responded. “I haven’t read the whole thing but if you choose something and you like it, you can go out naked when you’re 85. It’s your choice. I respect any decision by anybody. The only think that I don’t like is when women dress for finding a rich husband. That I hate. Otherwise, you’re free to do whatever you want.”
Meanwhile, if you are attending the Met Gala on Monday and REALLY want to stand out among all the over the top craziness, regardless of your age, maybe you should consider wearing a crisp white shirt-dress to the floor (trench coat or navy blazer optional!).