This year’s Vogue September issue is a full 596 pages, but I didn't make it past page six: That’s where the Prada Fall 2019 campaign appears, featuring Gigi Hadid clad in an army green overcoat and clutching an evening bag dripping with 3D silk roses. The outfit is lovely. That’s not what distracted me, though. Seeing it made me realize that it’s been a full decade since the 2009 Prada campaign that changed my relationship with my hair — and really, my relationship with myself.
I’ll never forget the day I spotted those Prada Fall/Winter 2009 ads for the first time. I was flipping through Vogue with my college roommate (some things never change) when we both erupted into shrieks of delight. Staring up at us were the kind of gorgeous, glowing models you'd expect from a high fashion campaign — except they were rocking some major frizz. At the time, my equally frizz-prone friend and I hadn't seen anything like it. Finally, our natural texture was chic!
"Prada Fall Frizz" became both a catchphrase and a way of life. Glossy print-outs of Prada models plastered the walls of our third floor walk-up. Our go-to styling tools — hard-hold gels to glue crunchy, spiral curls in place; finger-burning straighteners to flatten frizzy bangs to foreheads — gradually inched their way into the furthest recesses of our shared bathroom cabinet. We experimented to find the best method for executing Prada Fall Frizz: Diffuse hair sans product? Brush out air-dried curls? Back-comb dry strands and spritz with salt spray? (For the record, my frizz reached Prada-level chic after diffusing it post-shower, then brushing my type 2C curls into oblivion.)
The campaign obviously affected my aesthetic (not to mention, the time it took me to get ready each morning). I don’t think I’ve touched a straightener since, and I don’t feel the need to. But Prada Fall Frizz went beyond that. What I took from those images — that wild hair shouldn’t have to be straightened, tamed, or otherwise contorted to fit the mold of "traditional beauty" — affected me to my core. It gave me license to see myself — me, as I am, without Frizz-Ease or foundation or filters — as beautiful. As worthy. As inherently stylish, and professional, and empowered, and capable. I mean, if frizz made it to the runway, wasn’t anything possible?
Here’s the part where I acknowledge that my roommate and I come from privileged backgrounds: We are straight-size, cisgender, white women. In other words, we are the kind of people that routinely see aspects of themselves reflected in movies and TV, on the runway, and in magazines. Looking back on this campaign 10 years later, I can’t help but think about the women who still don’t identify with the models staring back at them from the pages of September issues. I have to wonder what kind of impact true inclusivity — representation of all ethnicities, sizes, genders, ages, hair types, skin types, ability levels, et al — could have on marginalized communities.
Fashion is slowly moving in the right direction. In comparison to the frizz-tastic Prada Fall 2009 campaign, which featured four white women, Prada’s 2019 campaign is more ethnically diverse. Although its print ads do star Gigi Hadid and Freja Beha Erichsen, there are appearances from models Anok Yai, Mona Tougaard, and Sora Choi, as well. This seems to be in line with the statistics from The Fashion Spot’s Fall 2019 Diversity Report: It found that about 38.8 percent of the models that walked during FW19 Fashion Month were nonwhite (a 2.7 percent increase from last season). It tracked a significant spike in the amount of models over the age of 50, as well. Sadly, TFS’s Diversity Report also documented two steps back: Plus-size model casting was down for Fall 2019 as compared to Spring 2019, as was transgender and non-binary casting — by nearly 40 percent.
As a brand new Fashion Month approaches, I’m eager to see if and how designers do better in regards to diversity on the runway and in ad campaigns. Not for how it will affect their bottom line (it’s just good business to speak to all types of people), but for how it will affect the young fashion enthusiasts flipping through Vogue, or scrolling through The Zoe Report’s online coverage, or watching brand campaign videos. Everyone deserves their own Prada Fall Frizz moment.