there were few designers who had as much impact in fashion during the nineties than miuccia prada. it was her vision, shared with the likes of calvin klein, helmut lang, and jil sander that abolished the excess of the eighties and ushered in the minimalist decade. what sets prada apart from her contemporaries is her highly acute intellectual approach to design. a process that although are based on high concepts, never sacrifices the wearability of her clothes. after graduating with a PhD in political science in 1978, miuccia who was then a member of the communist party and a staunch supporter of the women's rights movement, reluctantly took over the family business. in the mid eighties she designed the now famous nylon backpack that spawned a bootlegging industry overnight and put prada on the minds of the fashion establishment. despite the success of her accessories line, the real force of the prada engine would not be realized until the nineties. after a somewhat confusing start to the decade when designers were trying to cope with the recession and took into referencing old ideas that saw a sixties and seventies revival, the house of prada was slowly and quietly developing an image that would eventually dominate the decade. this vision of a modern woman took shape in the fall of 1994. when the trend for short skirts and cropped tops dominated the catwalks, prada presented a collection that was almost intentionally unsexy. the hemline dropped down to the knee and the almost severe covered up aspect of the clothes was a direct contrast to the general mood of the season. but prada's almost psychic ability to predict the future saw women finding their way into the prada stores and rejoicing in the fact that they finally found real clothes for their real lives. by next season, a new sense of sobriety that came with minimalism entered the fashion world. as the nineties moved on and everyone jumped on the minimalist bandwagon, prada, the proverbial prophet once again rattled the establishment. this time not by hemlines or a stripped down aesthetic, this time around it seemed she made her clothes intentionally ugly.
prada - spring/summer 1996
prada - fall/winter 1996
for her spring/summer 1996 collection, an unsuspecting audience was to witness one of the most influential collections prada has ever done. dubbed "geek chic" by the fashion press, the collection saw prada experimenting with odd colour combination, girlish naivete, and for the first time, she experimented with prints. she gave fabrics the illusion of having texture by the pattern printed on them. and the graphic seventies era prints on the coats and dresses became a commercial success. looking back, this could possibly have been the collection where the seeds to many of prada's later shows were planted. many of the prada-isms the world has become familiar with orginated from this show. although the intention of these clothes might appear to deliberately make the women non-sexual, in true prada form, women ate it all up and eventually influencing all the quirky designers today like consuelo castiglioni at marni. the "geek chic" aesthetic ever since has always been present at every single prada show. the mixture of girlish charm and a bourgeoise air results into something slightly perverse. by showing something that appears to be non-sexual, in miuccia's hands it ends up being extremely sexually charged. these types of paradoxes abound in the world of prada. and it is that reason why she manages to keep everyone interested and it makes her the barometer of where fashion is right now. actually make that where fashion will be in the future. if there is a reason why she is so highly influential it is because she's always way, way infront of the race.