A few weeks ago, I downloaded Face Tune on to my phone for the first time. Quasi Luddite that i am, and not quite knowing how to use this beautifying, selfie-perfecting app properly, I played around with the extremities of pinching in my cheeks to get rid of my Chinese “moon” face, elongating the body and shrinking the bingo wings and the thighs. I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to actually post one of these tuned-up photographs and yet the fascination with the meta-morphing process persists. Sure – retouching be it with clever scapel cut-outs and ink since the beginning of photography or Photoshop in the latter part of the 20th century is nothing new but to have those tools at your personal disposal and to physically see how a finger swipe here or there can dramatically alter your online persona is at once intriguing and terrifying.
It’s with these Face-tuning, auto-tuning and plastic-driven thoughts that I look at Prada’s A/W 15-6 collection, soon to come into stores and be mauled by my grubby paws. For a few, it was a sugar overload too much. For others, it felt like longtime Miuccia tropes rehashed yet again – debutantes gone “off”, our ideals of girliness subverted and what are the fine lines between the fake and the real. But the world has changed dramatically since Miuccia first debuted her nylon backpack in 1984, making the most industrial of materials feel like luxury. The ability to ‘fake it to make it’ has never been more available to us. Plastic driving up our disposable and debt-fuelled income. Plastic on our faces and body. Plastic masquerading as eggs. Plastic devices in our hands 24/7 backed up with plastic-constructed servers delivering information so that we might assume knowledge.
And so Miuccia used the more-than-familiar tools at her disposal to pass comment on what is an increasingly “beautfiable” (made-up word for a made-up world) environment. The faces had an eerie Stepford Wife glow about them. The hair was bouffant but also lopsided in its backcombed pony and held in place with paste gemstone ornaments. The fabrics had an away-from-the-body matte quality achieved with double bonded jersey and then echoed in the rubber soled loafers and space boots. The colour palette seemed to be derived from Fantasia’s Pastoral Symphony passage – powdery pastels of a cartoonish foreground mixed with muted hues of the background. Upon closer investigation, Miuccia’s methods of decoration were further comment on the mutating genes of today with molecular structure prints and embroidery, the highly visible and surgical top stitching and the more-is-more arrangement of bows, oversized perspex brooches and crystal encrustations. Tweeds – both real and printed, and ostrich skin – authentic and abstracted – are all available as are the options of modification to our bodies and our minds.
The cleverest thing about Miuccia’s views on the shifting parameters of artificial beauty, embedded into the collection is that there doesn’t seem like a passing of judgement, for or against. After all the women who can afford regular doses of Prada might also be getting regular doses of Botox. For the likes of me – scared even of an innocent Face Tune-up and doubly wary of invasive surgery to enhance one’s self – delving deep into Miuccia’s inquest into superficiality is perhaps a better way of engaging with our increasingly plastic world. At least you can take the clothes off at the end of the day.