From The Issue: We Get Fierce And Foamy In Our SS18 Prada Profile Story
In ancient Greece the orchid represented fertility and virility, and it was thought that it could, depending on the size you ate, determine the sex of your unborn child. If the father ate a large orchid tuber, his partner would produce a boy; if the mother ate a small tuber, she would produce a girl. Were the orchid prints on the Prada shirts, knits and jackets hinting at some kind of sexual determinism as well?
Another motif in the show, a large black spider, featured on kitsch earrings, a cotton shirt and knit. In nature, the female spider can be bigger and more powerful than the male and, in many species, the female spider eats the male after sexual contact.
Comic books have long been a place where female cartoonists can create strong female leads from all walks of life who represent a real-life battle against bad men and the patriarchy. In the comic world anything can happen and often does. Women and girls can kill and be killed; they can be objects of desire or fear or both. They are sometimes triumphant and sometimes not, but they are never constrained. It’s to this world and to nature and history that Mrs Prada turned for her spring line, using new (and, in some cases, reissuing archive) imagery of strong and militant female cartoon personalities by female illustrators. It was an imagined and unrelated sisterhood of girls and women sketched by Brigid Elva, Stellar Leuna, Giuliana Maldini, Fiona Staples, Joëlle Jones, Tarpé Mills and others.
Mills created Miss Fury, the first female costumed action hero, in 1941; she battled baddies, including Nazis, in her signature black catsuit and red cape. The underground cartoonist and comics historian Trina Robbins told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, “She [Miss Fury] can fight for herself, even if the only weapon she is using is a telephone or a high-heeled shoe!”
These artists’ depictions of strong female comic-book characters became prints on Prada’s ready-to-wear, bags and shoes. Each character’s story was different and each story was told by a woman.
These same characters were blown up and plastered over the walls of the show venue, too, and on the floor of the raised black catwalk were large white marks similar to those used to denote speed and movement in manga. The models were moving female manga, then? Possibly. They were certainly strong female leads.
Just as anything can happen in the lives of these cartoon women, anything can happen in how they dress: a long shirt worn over men’s trousers. Or trousers that you normally see on a man. And these “men’s trousers” were decorated with sequins and then cut into high-waisted “boy shorts”. These strange new ways of wearing clothes together felt political at times. Why should we delineate a border between men’s and women’s style anyway, Mrs Prada seemed to ask.
And then there were the fashion time hops: from new wave 1980s (graphic red and black striped shorts) to the 1950s (nipped waistbands and full-skirt frocks). Were the fashions on the catwalk contemporaneous with the comics’ issue dates or characters?
In the series Lady Killer, by Jones, the smiling, 1950s-cliché homemaker Josie appears in long, full dresses and stretchy mid-calf skirts worn with cutesy lamb’s-wool cardis similar to those seen on the catwalk.The bags offered a more succinct visual explanation of Mrs Prada’s thoughts: one, a kind of fold-over satchel, was printed with a go-go-boots-wearing black female character hanging from a parachute with an empty speech bubble. A silenced black woman? Topical.
Some bags were decorated with silver pyramid studs, but others had rows of pink-topped buttons; these also came in light blue and sat together on the same bag. Was Mrs Prada raising a knowing brow at every last cliché in the “boys wear girls wear” rule book?
There were shoes that looked like brothel creepers with a shrunken sole and more studs. A few 1950s-pastiche slingback heels were deliciously cartoonish and suburban.
The American activist Angela Davis is the most political of all the characters in Prada’s cartoon sisterhood – she’s the parachuting, bag-print character. Her Afro hair and round glasses stamped on the front of a Prada coat with the words “Sister: you are welcome in this house” is by Robbins. She told The Globe and Mail that it originally ran on the back cover of the first all-women comic It Ain’t Me, Babe, published in 1970. “She was almost, for me, like a comic-book heroine – a beautiful African-American woman who was wanted by the FBI.” Surely an image that’s as potent now as it’s ever been.
Taken from the latest issue of 10 Magazine, ALAÏA, SHIFT, POWER, NEW
Photographer James Giles
Fashion Editor Sophia Neophitou
Text Richard Gray
Hair Renya Xydis at Talentland using Wella
Make-up Nicole Thompson at Union using MAC
Models Hannah Elyse and Kye Howell at Chadwick and Irina Kravchenko, Ondria Hardin, Tess Angel and Victoria Lee at Prscillas
Casting Felcity Webb
Production Alison Veness and Rebecca Khoury
Thanks to QT Bondi and Shay Thomas