"THE good taste of bad taste"
prada spring summer 1996
Monday 4th March 2019
“Ugly,” defined by the oxford dictionary as “unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance,” is a word that’s meaning has been argued for generations, particularly in the realms of fashion. What is ugly? Is there such a thing as ugliness, or are aesthetic judgments purely a matter of taste? Is ugliness only skin-deep, or can something that is beautifully engineered also be ugly? If there were no ugliness in the world, would there be any beauty? All questions one might consider when declaring something ugly.
However, what makes Miuccia Prada’s “Banal Eccentricity” collection assertively unpleasant to look at is its regard for the mundane. Its clean lines, generic A-line silhouettes, and dated 70s inspired prints speak volumes of everyday monotony. With little to no intention Miuccia Prada’s Spring Summer 1996 collection, sent shockwaves through the fashion industry asserting a new look, one that was defined by the ordinary. Press play to find out more…
AUDIO: Often credited as the creator of the “ugly chic,” throughout her lifetime, Miuccia Prada has continued to toy with the boundaries of ugliness and beauty within her work. Her Spring Summer 1996 collection was no exception, marking a point in her career when her love for all things ugly can be seen at its best.
Described by Miuccia Prada herself as, “The Good Taste of Bad Taste,” the collection appeared on the runway at a time when Italian fashion was defined by “sexiness.” With Tom Ford at Gucci and Gianni Versace still alive, Prada took a risk in attempting to redefine what makes a woman look and feel beautiful.
Titled, “Banal Eccentricity” The collection has later been described as “Prada’s turning-of-the-tide ‘pretty ugly’ collection,” by Tim Blanks and Charlie Porter previously recalled to AnOther Magazine, “how shocking this collection was when it first came out,” labelling it, “radical.”
COLOUR PALLET & PRINT
Moving away from her own pristine minimalism, a feature in previous collections, for Spring Summer 1996 Miuccia Prada’s colour pallet was decisively brave. Blending avocado green, chartreuse and dusty lilac with various hues of sludge brown and ochre. Miuccia Prada decided to adopt the very colour pallet that was perceived as ugly and out-dated at the time, for her entire collection.
The colours appeared in block on a-line skirts, belted blazers, v-neck mohair jumpers, wide-leg trousers, polo shirts and also in prints that featured across the collection. In one look, Kate Moss wore a three-piece ensemble with matching blazer, skirt and top all in the same hand-drawn tweed-inspired print, but in varying colours - forest green, ochre yellow and dusty grey.
A dated floral print in deep purple, green and brown stood alone on skirts and dresses, and was paired with another of the prints made up from green and brown squares. An unlikely match. Graphic and cubist in nature this print became synonymous with the collection and featured in campaigns in vogue across the world. Because of its prints the collection later became known as the “formica print” collection due to its references to 60s kitchen vinyl patterns.
The shoes included in this collection were also somewhat revolutionary for their time. The models stomped down the runway to Marcos Valle’s 80s hit ‘Estrelar’ in Prada’s – now renowned – chunky brown leather shoes and sandals, both flat and unorthodoxly low-heeled at a time of 6 inch heels and hyper-sexualised female silhouettes.
In October 1996, British Vogue published an Article sub-titled, “some seasons fashion designers push preconceptions of good taste to the edge. Whether you love or hate the results, ultimately they will change the way you think about clothes.” In the article Lisa Armstrong draws attention to the fact that, “Prada’s fascination with drab shades has changed the way the industry thinks about colour.” The images featured in the magazine demonstrate how much Prada’s SS96 collection has influenced the colour pallet and silhouette used by other designers a season later.
This collection encapsulates the Prada design philosophy that still exists today. By juxta-posing ideas, fabrics, colour and shapes, Miuccia Prada continues to offer us something that is new, which is perhaps what makes her one of the most critically acclaimed fashion designers to date.
As summarised by Alexander Fury in an article for the Independent, the collection “got us all to wear chocolate brown and gave vintage sales a boost.
In retrospect, it caused a seismic sartorial shift in a similar manner to Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ of nineteen forty-seven. Miuccia’s fugly frocks, the knowing naffness of her Bri-Nylon, crocheted tights and toilet-bowl heels, have influenced the way entire generations of designers create clothing.”
“Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer,’ Miuccia Prada told Claire Duffin for the Telegraph in 2013