Analysis, Fashion Issues, Opinion
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Prada’s A Bitch — An Introduction

Miuccia Prada (left) and Miles Davis (right)

Miuccia Prada (left) and Miles Davis (right)

Yes. This lengthy article is an introduction, but I guarantee you, it will be worth it. I meant to interest both fashion and music enthusiasts. The latter may consider this bullshit, since music ain’t exactly my turf, even if I do cite proper references. It’s happened in the past. But I don’t want to bastardise the epicness that is Bitches Brew, a phenomenal album that has started fights between me and random people at record stores. Plus, I didn’t intend on having a provocative title. But when your subject matter includes a former pantomime-turned-iconic-womenswear-designer and a musician central to almost every movement in Jazz, how could you not? It won’t do any justice.

‘Prada’s A Bitch’ refers to the relationship between the Italian designer and American legend, referencing the latter’s bestselling album, in the focus of the Fall 2010 collection created by the former. When I was writing this, most of my attention had directed towards constructing a mental Venn diagram demonstrating the intersections between the disciplines of music and fashion. Another related article, written about sounds in fashion, is pending to be published. If it won’t be, I’ll share that with you here. The great thing about the symbiosis of fashion and music, is that a new world unfolds by bridging collections with the music playing during the presentations.

Prada’s Fall 2010 ad campaign, photographed by Steven Meisel.

In the process, I realise that most of what I know about music is from what I get exposed to during fashion week. The Fall 2010 Prada show was unforgettable and forever changed my view on the relationship of fashion and music. You best see it. Miles Davis and Prada both scream avant garde: they reject everything traditional. Only now am I able to appreciate the greatness of the pair. Besides, the musical arrangements for Prada shows are far from what you call typical. With such intellectual substance, it’s impossible for me not to participate in a conversation about music and social commentary, first engaged by the presentation. Prada is one among the few brands such as Christian Dior, Jil Sander and Céline, to centralise music as part of conceptual communication.

Whether it’s by utilising race car noises and stiletto clacks throughout a 1950’s-themed presentation, or rearranging traditional Japanese music for a Pop Art collection, Prada relies on music to set the themes and inspiration of a show. I wouldn’t have registered the idea of Weimar era Germany being an inspiration for the Fall 2014 collection, had a set of harsh staccato strings of a Kurt Weill score not played so early on, or if Barbara Sukowa (leading actress of Lola by Weimar filmmaker, R. W. Fassbinder) had not made a vocal appearance. The fashion subtext of the Golden Twenties came far later in the collection, when Metropolis-reminiscent drop-waist dresses finally showed up. (Let’s not get into the details of that collection here though. It deserves a separate essay.)

Léa Seydoux in a Prada Candy L’Eau commercial, directed by Wes Anderson, 2013.

Nonetheless, the Prada soundtrack remains a pivotal component in painting the image of the Prada girl. She’s quirky, fun, eclectic and cultural — but sometimes, she can be a bit of a bitch — though not in an entirely negative connotation. Although ‘bitch’ has been used derogatorily in the past, the word has garnered more empowering definitions in recent times. This girl is presented best in the Prada Candy L’Eau ad, starring Lea Seydoux. Candy is pursued by two hopeless boys, and doesn’t succumb to a single bit of their antics, refusing to be regarded as a trophy. She doesn’t hesitate to to introduce herself first while the gents argue over who gets to take her on a date, or blow the candles of the cake the two men are debating about. Two seconds in, the music starts blasting and Candy is already found dancing freely. Basically, the Prada girl leads, capable of turning the tables by using a trait usually less appreciated by society. Seduction, rejection and independence are her virtues.

Let’s talk Jazz. For high fashion, ‘Jazz’ usually means the ‘Roaring Twenties’ in America — a cliché, because jazz did not exclusively prevail during that time or place. Other designers, such as Ralph Lauren (who designed costumes for the first film adaptation of The Great Gatsby), focused on the twenties and failed to present how Jazz propelled women’s rights in relation to its fashion and their ability to behave so openly about sex. Prada’s rendition for Fall 2010 focused of the Jazz movement during the sixties. It was an exciting time for Jazz: it found its Latin sound, which provided the gateway for rock rhythms, fused with psychedelia as presented in Miles Davis’s seminal Bitches Brew, released in 1970, and makes an appearance on Prada’s Fall 2010 show mix.

Miles Davis’s double studio album Bitches Brew, released in 1970, Columbia. Artwork by Mati Klarwein.

But I didn’t know what else was playing during that Fall 2010 presentation. Shazam did not exist yet to help me find out. Even with the app, Prada’s Fall 2010 was a bitch to decrypt, and I wasn’t the slightest bit of a jazz follower then. After using Shazam (God bless you) to analyse this mix as thoroughly as I could, I discovered that the show was set to a mix of:

  • Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew,
  • David Bowie’s A Small Plot of Land,
  • Lounge Lizard’s Harlem Nocturne,
  • Howard Shore’s Naked Lunch,
  • Trevor Jones’ I Got This Thing About Chickens and Nightmare

This elaborate concoction was difficult to decipher because of the seamlessness and melodic coherence. It was tough to pinpoint where a track began and ended. It didn’t help that at that point I had only listened to Davis’s Round About Midnight and the legendary Kind of Blue, and no other album — so I wouldn’t have the slightest clue that he had produced something unorthodox like Bitches Brew. But it’s safe to say that Davis’s primeval performance prevailed over the other tracks from the mix, and fitting to the sexual character Miuccia Prada had presented. Intimidating and devilishly alluring.

Here is where I’m leaving it for now, as I think this is sufficient to read before I publish the next part. We’ll get into the details of the music, its impact and the state of the female body today. Stay tuned.

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8 Comments

  1. Hung Tran says

    I love this! Music is such a crucial part of the fashion show experience, and one of the hardest to capture in writing, even by skilled writers who can capture and relay sensitive information. I remember watching Alexander Wang’s autumn-winter 2010 runway show (one of his best ever, in my opinion) and being in awe of the girls–how they moved with a spring in their step, and how their arms and hips swung to the rhythm of the music. It was glorious. Sadly, I don’t have time to watch complete fashion shows anymore. Clicking through static pictures on style.com isn’t as satisfying as it used to be.

    • Music definitely is crucial, but I also think that for some shows, the girls weren’t choreographed properly. Or that now, no matter how great the music is the girls keep on marching like zombies. Take Proenza Schouler Fall 2014. Gotdayyyym that Missy Elliot x Zombie track was ready to make me drop my ass tbh — apparently not the models. It’s as if the trend is to nullify emotions no matter how inspiring the collection is. In that case, I might as well include gifs, Hung. So at least when you read my posts you don’t have to load a video to see them in action. Besides, on Tumblr that’s kind of the norm now, isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Great post. It’s interesting how the music that was played at fashion shows was only heard by attendees, now (thanks to live-streaming etc) it’s been opened up a lot more. I certainly think that the choice of artist/song is considered more than ever before with a view to how it reflects on the brand. One brand I think are trying this in a interesting way are Burberry: it’s integral to their storytelling. Songs (performed live/exclusively) are available to download post show, musicians are dressed by the brand at events… there’s even a whole section of their site dedicated to ‘acoustic’.

    There’s an interesting article about it here: http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2013/sep/04/christopher-bailey-music-burberry-fashion

    • Thank you! Yes, I think they’ve published a video interview with Bailey explaining about the entire Burberry acoustic element. My lecturer shared it in class. The thing is, I can’t seem to relate to it! It’s just not what I’m into and I’ve felt like the brand’s DNA was a little overdone. It doesn’t feel organic or interesting. Which is why I decided to go in-depth with Prada instead, because it’s definitely very conceptual and tangible. There’s a lot of things to talk about, even without press on Prada’s music. It’s a pity though. They should publish more content on the lesser known things.

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