How Miu Miu made the world’s skinniest luxury outfit a viral hit

It took a 72-year-old designer to wake up the luxury fashion establishment. Miuccia Prada,

one of its queens, sent a jarring new silhouette down the runway for her Miu Miu spring collection, presented in Paris in October 2021. There were several iterations, but the main thing was an ultra-low-cut pleated miniskirt (if short the peek out pockets) paired with a small cropped top. Some tops were cropped sweaters or buttonholes; others appeared to be the waistband of a trouser, reshaped into a bra-like band. The look was preppy, but cheeky; think early 2000s Avril Lavigne with a touch of Ivy League nostalgia. It captured the current aesthetic of Y2K-obsessed, pandemic-weary party girls thriving online.

“It’s become a meme,” said AJ Tinsley, 24, an Irish fashion designer living in London, who posted his own DIY version of the outfit on TikTok.

Nicole Kidman wore the ensemble on the cover of Vanity Fair, styled by Katie Grand.


Photo:

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari/Vanity Fair

No Spring 2022 designer look has been more relentlessly copied, displayed, watched, critiqued, admired, reproduced, photographed and discussed than what has become known as “the Miu Miu ensemble”. The outfit started appearing on magazine covers last month, worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman for Vanity Fair to supermodel Paloma Elsesser for iD. While the set is often photographed on extremely thin young models and influencers, these two covers made headlines for featuring it on a woman in her 50s and a plus-size model, respectively. In the candy-pink Miu Miu commercials, It-girl-of-the-moment Hailey Bieber poses in versions of the ensemble. And the pieces barely had time to hit stores before they sold out. A second delivery, expected soon, has already been pre-sold out, according to Prada. The tiny miniskirts, which cost $995 for the Chino version and $1,200 for the Prince of Wales check version, cost double on eBay.

As you might expect, similar sets have been spotted on cheap e-commerce sites like Fashion Nova. Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein currently offers over 8,000 styles of sorta-Miu-Miu pleated miniskirts. The garment’s relative simplicity has also made it a prime target for fashion DIYers on TikTok and YouTube. These crafty artisans teach viewers how to customize their own ensembles, usually using men’s chinos. Mr Tinsley, the Irish fashion designer, said he made his version for just a ‘five’.

Hailey Bieber appears in spring Miu Miu commercials wearing the ensemble.


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miu miu

Shuang Bright, a 26-year-old videographer from New York, started DIY because she wanted to make fashion accessible to more people. She hopped on the Miu Miu set right after the spring show, excited about how easily people could recreate it using pieces they might already have, like preppy sweaters and khakis. She noted that while the DIYs couldn’t match the quality of the real Miu Miu deal, they left youngsters feeling like they were part of the moment. “The silhouette was particularly appealing to Gen Z,” she said, “because of its closeness to 2000s trends of…really short and revealing. [clothing].”

Model Cindy Bruna wears an extra lightweight version of the set to the fall show in Paris this month.


Photo:

Getty Images

In that sense, the Miu Miu set is an interesting case study in fashion that syncs with youth-led internet culture, rather than speaking to the same old customers who typically shop at high-end boutiques. Some credit Ms. Prada’s collaborator on the show, Lotta Volkova, stylist and cohort of Balenciaga’s creative director Demna, with reinvigorating the brand. But she is the stylist; Ms. Prada has always created the designs. Regardless of who did what, the unnerving collection resonated far beyond the typical fashion circuit. Fashion designer Mr Tinsley said: “In a way it’s a good marketing thing for Miu Miu because a lot of people who aren’t into fashion too much know that now… It presents Miu Miu to a new generation.” Miu Miu, whose brand name derives from Ms. Prada’s surname, was founded in 1993 as a sort of younger sister of the Prada brand. But since then, she has increasingly come out of Prada’s shadow, appearing in Paris instead of Milan and becoming a luxury player in her own right.

A look from Miu Miu’s fall collection, shown in Paris this month, continues the miniskirt craze.

Even high schoolers, at least those with more forgiving parents and teachers, are getting into the trend. Ashley Langholtz, a 17-year-old high school student at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY, started the Instagram account @miumiuset to chronicle appearances of the look in magazines and in nature. She decided to start the account when, a few weeks ago, during her winter break, she woke up to find her entire feed consisted of Miu Miu posts. She noticed students at her school wearing versions of the set that adapted second-hand pieces. So far this has not been checked by the vagueness of the school dress code.

Mr Tinsley thought the miniskirt could become Miu Miu’s signature luxury item, the equivalent of Chanel’s quilted 2.55 handbag or a Burberry trench coat. The brand seems decidedly eager to continue its success story. For her fall collection, shown earlier this month in Paris, she reprized the low-rise pleated miniskirt in several looks.

The daring look has its limits. Jennifer Girukwishaka, one of the hottest models around, walked the Miu Miu spring show and recently wore the outfit to a British Vogue shoot photographed by Craig McDean. While she said her first impression of the skirt was, “Wow!” (in a good way) she said it might be better suited to fashion cities like Milan and Paris than those in her African home country. “In Burundi, we wouldn’t wear that,” she said. She chuckled as she imagined what her mother would think of the outfit. “She wouldn’t let me walk out of the house with that.”

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