Miuccia Prada’s shoes. Words by Susannah Frankel
Our tastes, we all know are shaped in childhood, often inspired by our mothers or indeed as a reaction against their dress codes and those imposed upon us at a tender age. In this, Miuccia Prada is no exception. When she was a mere slip of a girl, she was expected to wear footwear that was flat, brown and ultra-traditional, mostly of the moccasin variety. She therefore longed for, and even dreamed about, wearing more whimsical pink and red shoes. Her mother, meanwhile, was more likely to be seen in elegant and sophisticated designs, with a high but never spiked heel. Stilettos were considered vulgar.
Today she is one of the most closely scrutinised designers in the world, but put the elements above together and it is not overly difficult to see why Prada’s shoes look like they do. Flat and brown in places (there’s always room for a certain nostalgia and a whiff of the 70’s in particular), pink and high in others, and at times, a fusion of the two. They are highly personal, distinctive, instantly recognisable but never predictable, not unlike the brains behind them. And stiletto heels, by now ubiquitous elsewhere, are a rarity here.
Nobody knows this better than Katie Grand, editor-in-chief of LOVE Magazine, creative consultant at Marc Jacobs and one-time stylist of Prada’s women’s wear. Grand boasts around 400 pairs of Prada and Miu Miu shoes in her archive. And her collection continues to grow.
‘When I worked there, after the first show, Miuccia told me to take some shoes. I was quite reticent, quite careful’, Grand says now. ‘She said: “Don’t be polite”. And I was awful from thereon in. We’d always do it. When we’d finished the show she’d let me take what I liked. There was the odd pair where I’d be sitting there really hoping that the girl who came in for a fitting was a size 37 and the ones I had my eyes on, which were a 40, wouldn’t fit her’.
Prada made ruby pumps edged with studs for Grand’s wedding. ‘I danced in those shoes all night’. Among her favourite pairs is a simple black, masculine lace-up - a sensible shoe. ‘It sounds boring but they’re really comfortable. You can definitely walk in them’. Grand has everything from a hot pink glossy ankle boot ( ‘They’re fuchsia patent, what more could you want?’) to a barely there satin slipper. ‘I bought those because she has them and was wearing them all the time’.
Of the look of the shoes in general, one thing unites them: ‘Well, they’re not man-catchers’, says Grand. And indeed that has never been the point. Instead, Prada shoes are made with fashion, not anything as obvious as attracting the opposite sex, in mind. ‘I never think in terms of signatures’, Miuccia Prada once told me. ‘My shoes are about what I want a collection to express. I always try to focus on how to express a concept and the shoes in the collection are definitely an expression of that collection, an expression of a fashion concept’, she said.
Of Grand’s obsession with her designs, she has this to say: ‘Katie has a real obsession with fashion and thats what makes her work amazing. I’m happy to see that not only do we share the same obsession but also some of the same shoes’.
And coming from Miuccia Prada, that is praise indeed.
Susannah Frankel is a London-based writer & curator.
NB: Since this article was originally published, Katie Grand has left LOVE Magazine and now heads up The Perfect Magazine.