STYLIST'S NOTES: PRADA SPRING 1996
Prada's Spring 1996 collection was a major departure from the primarily black and neutral palette, monochrome styling, early 60's silhouettes, and minimalist techno nylon shown by the brand in previous seasons. Instead of quiet luxury, 70's-esque upholstery prints and offbeat color combinations walked down the runway atop chunky sandals. Divisive and unsettling at the time and variously labeled 'ugly chic' and 'geek chic', this show was a directional turning point for Prada. It solidified the brand's influence and piqued the interest of younger fashion fans. By Fall 1996 geometric prints and clashing colors were all over the high street, and other designer brands took note as well. Vogue initially placed the clashing prints and chunky shoes among the worst trends of 1996, but 20 years on, editors recognized Prada Spring 1996 as the 90's 3rd most influential collection, and it’s referred to as a pivotal moment time and time again.
Runway images via prada.com, US Vogue December 1996 and January 1997.
The show was called 'Banal Eccentricity', and The New York Times noted that the collection paid "tribute to when banal design was elevated to 'Banal Art' at the Venice Biennale in 1980. (Prada) applied the simplest geometric patterns to the simplest shapes, for an effect of deliberate naivete." Milan's postmodern design group Studio Alchimia exhibited 'The Banal Object' at the first international Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1980, titled 'The Presence of the Past'. Alessandro Mendini and Ettore Sottsass were two of the most well-known participants in the group, and both resisted the 'good taste' Italian design came to be known for during the previous decades. Postmodernism argued “that form needn’t necessarily follow function, that designers should be free to inject humour and parody into their work, cherry-picking a hotch-potch of historical influences.”
Studio Alchimia, Banal Room, SICOF Milan 1979, from The Hot House by Andrea Branzi 1984.
Before becoming a designer, Miuccia Prada dressed solely in vintage clothing for a decade. "I always asked myself why I liked it so much, and I think it’s the history. Each dress represents a person, a piece of a life. For me, the past always had an incredible value because anything you learn comes from there.”
Recent years have seen iconic prints re-issued by Versace, Gucci and of course, Prada. 1996's geometric patterns were re-imagined by Raf Simons for Prada's Spring 2021 collection, and the brown and blue stripe pattern made a re-appearance in the Fall 2018 collection, confirming that the past truly is still present.