To most, fashion without Miuccia Prada is like having David without Victoria. But you may be horrified surprised to learn that it was dangerously close to becoming a (grim) reality. In fact, many moons ago the Fash Queen, who has since become one of the world’s most significant designers, ‘hated’ fashion. We know: hard to believe. Especially in light of her phenomenal achievements and unquestionable influence on the industry, set to be celebrated with an exhibit at the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Still, she revealed to Newsweek’s Robin Givhan that far from being a fashion fanatic, there was a time when she believed entering the fashion industry would be ‘the worst’ thing she could have done. Why? Because it conflicted with something that she was passionate about: feminism.
‘I hated it,’ she said. ‘I was a feminist in the ’60s and can you imagine? The worst I could have done was to be in fashion. It was the most uncomfortable position … And I had problems for so many years; only recently I stopped.’
Prada explained that eventually she realised that, despite it being dubbed a trivial industry for airheads, ‘so many clever people respect fashion so much and through my job… I have an open door to any kind of field. It’s a way of investigating all the different universes: architecture, art, film. I also realized people respect me because I’m good in my job.’
Prada's Spring Summer 2012 collection
So is she right that fashion and feminism can mix? There’s no denying that it’s a difficult balance to strike. In an industry criticized (and often rightly so) for projecting an unattainable image for women to aspire to and thus provoking them to feel bad about their image, like Prada, many feminists feel prickly at the thought of entering a world obsessed with materialism.
As Susan Bell Flavin says us on Grazia UK's Facebook page, ‘women want to be judged by their abilities, talent and character – not her sexuality and attractiveness. Whereas the fashion industry is ONLY interested in those things. I am sure there are feminists in the fashion industry in terms of their career. But in terms of what they are selling, I can't be so sure.’
But should everyone who works the fash pack be cut from the same (Hermes print) cloth?
Many intelligent women work in fashion – though, as Sandra Guillen says on Facebook, ‘there are still people in fashion who give a bad name to the industry by behaving like the stereotypical airheaded snob.’ But, she says ‘It’s always hard to be taken seriously while working in fashion. I think everybody can relate to it.’
Though it’s often overshadowed, there is an awful lot of good that the industry does too – and fashion, of course played a key role in the women’s movement. What’s more, bloggers such as Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller are rejecting the assumption that fashion is about being superficial, and attracting men, bringing style that pleases women – not men – to the forefront of the business and giving women assurance to use their style to express themselves freely. Because, whether we like it or not, we all give an impression of ourselves through what we wear – regardless of if you’re the sort that wears clothes as a necessity, or embraces the chance to be creative with your appearance.
And let’s not forget that feminism is about choice – fashion being one area in which we have much more choice to be individual, to wear what we want: including men’s clothes. Catch your man borrowing your latest Westwood skirt and he could be subject to a ribbing from the lads, whereas women can work an androgynous look with confidence.
So, what do you think? Get involved in the debate by commenting below or joining the discussion on Grazia UK's Facebook page.