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The Subversive Way Miu Miu Makes Cutesy Clothes Appealing To Adults

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The word Miu Miu may be kawaii, but the brand is an outlier, a pathfinder for trends, a political juggernaut that’s wrapped in bows, frills and saccharine shades. Taking its name from the cute sobriquet of the label’s designer Miuccia Prada (also creative director of sister house Prada), Miu Miu is like Dadaism - the early Twentieth Century art movement that soberly celebrated the destruction of the norms but drolly took its name from the first sounds a baby makes. Its cute name and accessible aesthetic is a red herring. As WGSN’s Associate Editor of Womenswear Anna Ross says, ‘what differentiates Miu Miu and makes it so successful? It speaks to people on another level than simply aesthetics.’

From Miu Miu sunglasses to Miu Miu perfume adverts, the brand is selling a subtle semaphore for educated irony. This is a skill honed by its founder who studied political science at university and even joined the Italian Communist Party at one point before changing the face of Italian fashion. Taking the cues of cut and fit from the luxury heritage of the country she’s transformed the glitz and glamour so easily associated with the Mediterranean country into provocative, assertive, intellectual clothes. For Muccia Prada, so-wrong-it’s-so-right has been her calling card – think of the industrial nylon of the Prada brand’s luxury bags and the stiff 1980s-inspired leathers that trickled down Miu Miu’s autumn winter 2018 runway.

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‘There is a tongue and cheek element to Prada’s younger sister that makes it more footloose and fancy-free,’ says Ross, ‘it doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays just on the right side of satire while remaining chic. Miuccia always has a knack for reinventing the Miu Miu girl each season without losing the brand’s identity, which is a real testament to a great designer.’

Launched in 1993, as a diffusion label for the anti-conformist girl, Miu Miu’s identity is strong today as when it was first founded. Just look at the signature Miu Miu bag; metallic, quilted, usually embellished with a bejewelled buckle but with hardware so chunky it can be seen from out of space. What about the signature Miu Miu glasses? Flirtatiously studded with crystals and pearls but with a confounding cut-out. And, the quintessential Miu Miu dress? Though tailored out of a decadent velvet or a ladylike brocade with a dinky Peter Pan collar it’s cut skimpy to show off maximum leg and even an accidental knicker sighting. Or the classic Miu Miu sandals and shoes? A ballet pump or a princess heel with lashings of gems but an unexpected leather, gingham or studded accent. Nothing is quite as simply pretty and cute as it seems. ‘They remain one of the few brands that stays true to their origin in both design and concept’, says Ida Petersson, Womenswear Buying Director of Browns. This is something that's confirmed by Ross who sums up their house codes as 'playful, feminine and spontaneous with a little sprinkle of retro and sport for good measure.'

‘There’s a rebellious edge to Miu Miu’s codes which appeals to the rulebreakers’ adds Ross, ‘Miuccia has a knack of playing with the constructs of taste, brilliantly subverting colours, shapes and patterns in ways which shouldn’t work, yet work perfectly under her guidance. There’s an element of retro in her designs which is underscored and revived with a contemporary lens for the modern woman’