The Sweet Scent of Sobriety

An exclusive preview of Miu Miu's autumn/winter 2011 collection

Photography by Philip Riches

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Auguste Perret’s Palais d’Iéna is a Mecca for all lovers of concrete, and one of the rarest architectural gems of Paris. With the Iéna, Perret, a contemporary of Mies van der Rohe, took a hard and brittle material better known for its intransigence and moulded and curved it to embody the lyricism and grace of a classical Greek temple. The Iéna was built between 1936-46, while Perret’s Modernist peers were still in thrall to the hard-edged minimalism of Bauhaus, which considered ornamentation a sin.

Originally a museum of public works and now the informal “third chamber” of government, after the Senate and the National Assembly, as well as the home of the Conseil économique, social et environnemental, the Palais d’Iéna is not open to the public, but it hosted Miu Miu’s latest Paris adventures – the most turbo-charged and dramatic collection of the season.

Miu Miu’s autumn/winter collection features voluminous shapes that aren’t so much worn on as hovering around the bodies of the models, with a Blade Runner-inspired vampishness curtailed demurely below the knees, hemlines like a cyber-love-bomb wrapped in a tea cosy. Miuccia Prada told Tank, “The collection had to be about elegance and sobriety and it had to fit that place. Importance and femininity came out as a result.”

The fashionista’s favourite brand, Miu Miu is sometimes mistakenly regarded as a younger sister to Prada. After all, the industry formula for superbrands like Prada is to create a diffusion line, which means a lower price point, a much wider audience and an easy way of making more money. Miuccia doesn’t do formula. “I hate formulas,” she said to Tank. “If you abandon yourself to them you are dead.”

Instead, she has allowed Miu Miu to flower with its own unique identity. It is shown in Paris, in (until now, at least) impossibly small venues, rather than in Prada’s home city of Milan. She invests in Miu Miu flagships in prime spots around the world, the most recent of which unwrapped itself on London’s Bond Street late last year, and mines a rich creative seam that is entirely different from the designs and ideas at work with Prada. In fact, one thing the fashion pack has had to learn after leaving one of Prada’s often paradigm-shifting shows in Milan is that the Miu Miu show in Paris will be nothing like it.

But what is the distinguishing feature of Miu Miu, according to the most cerebral and uncompromising of designers? “Miu Miu is more pure fashion, with less thinking,” Miuccia explains. But anyone who expects unchallenging everyday-wear will be disappointed. After all, this is Miuccia Prada speaking, and “less thinking” is relative. Romantic, yes; colourful, yes; sexy, yes; über-trendy, of course. Easy, never. Miu Miu is a thing of the heart rather than the head. It is Auguste Perret’s Grecian ornate to Prada’s Bauhaus. If you have ever had to choose between the head and the heart, as mere mortals often must, Miuccia Prada’s suggestion is, naturally, choose both. §

All clothes and shoes by Miu Miu

Hair: Maarit Niemela at D+V Management using Kérastase / Make-up: Mickael Noselet at Calliste Paris / Nails: Teresa Smith using Gelish / Photography assistants: Steph Hartop, Ben Morgan / Styling assistant: Chloe Grace Press / Set design: Becki Rainford assisted by Joe Berglund / Model: Cato van Ee at IMG Models 


  • The Sweet Scent of Sobriety