giddy up! miu miu goes to the races
Miuccia subverts conservative equestrian fashion for Resort 2020.
Images courtesy Prada
What is it about the races that brings out old-fashioned fashion? In Britain, you only have to look at Ascot to see sartorial conservatism at its most literal — hats, florals, tweeds, sensible pumps. Yawn! Part of that is enforced dress codes — for women, a hat is mandatory and strapless dresses, shorts and exposed midriffs are forbidden. It’s as antiquated as the societal diktats in My Fair Lady.
So, when Miuccia Prada decided to riff on the idea of equestrian spectatorship for Miu Miu’s Resort 2020 show, she set out to subvert it. The show was held at the Hippodrome d’Auteuil, a Paris racing track dating back to 1873, and her collection was brimming with all the clothes that would otherwise get you turned away from the Royal Enclosure: high-waisted short shorts, low-cut tea dresses with exaggerated Chelsea collars, rolled-up blazers borrowed from the boys, crystal-embellished cardies that would distract the horses.
“Conservatism is something that worries me in general,” Miuccia explained after the show. It’s certainly on her mind — Mrs Prada has spoken before about her concerns of the growing far-right in Europe. That said, she emphasised that she didn’t want to be too serious — especially with Miu Miu, the irreverent younger sister of Prada. “My childish part comes out with Miu Miu. Everyone is tired of concept and ideas and too much talking. I am leading two lives myself — I have a very serious life, and then one in fashion that is light. You can’t be too serious with fashion.”
Part of Miu Miu’s appeal has always been its naivety. There’s something distinctly British about the way it’s mixed-and-matched — boyish, layered with different eras (an exaggerated version of the 40s tea dress has always been a staple, as have 70s suedes and knits), and — perhaps most significantly — it’s decorativeness. Prada, by contrast, is more grown-up, more hardcore, more austere at times. Miu Miu is fun and playful, maybe a bit naughty and definitely has a sense of humour. Just look at Mrs Prada’s take on the Ascot hat: a mash-up of different styles; huge cloches, giant floppy sunhats, bakerboys layered over satin and tweed baseball caps. “Apart from the hats, the fashion is easy,” she pointed out. “Nothing is impossible — not at all.”
The last couple of Prada shows, Miuccia has spoken about the need for reality and directness with her collections, reflecting on the role of fashion in the wider world. “There is a request from the fashion industry to talk about political subjects, which is very problematic,” she said after her autumn/winter 19 womenswear show in Milan. “To approach [political issues] from a fashion point of view can be superficial. That’s a problem, the duality between one part that is political and serious, and the things for pleasure… From one side, honestly, we do rich clothes for rich people. In a world of pleasant things, to approach political issues there is something different to find a way that is intelligent but not too political. [It’s] not real politics.”
Yet it’s no secret that Miuccia is one of the most intellectual designers around today. She can’t help but respond to the world around her, even if it’s just to offer us some a beautiful respite from it. Though she is also taking serious action about it, banning fur from Miu Miu and Prada and committing to only using nylon recycled from plastic waste by 2021. If this Miu Miu show can tell us anything, it’s that although she may not want to address politics head-on, she can take a softer, cleverer, more abstract approach. This show was about how conservatism is ridiculously regressive and manifests itself in the most visceral way: how we choose to present our bodies to the world, and how the world tells us not to. In other words, let us wear shorts to the races!
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.