"Don't you just want to stay here forever?"
"This is like the BEST. THING. EVER!"
These were the sort of things that I heard from pretty much every person I bumped into at The Miu Miu London's ephemeral female member's club, which has just finished its glorious three day run at the Cafe Royal. It takes a lot to really blow the minds of jaded industry figures, that populated most of the member's list but Miu Miu pulled out all the stops, ensuring that every detail.
An open discourse in amongst likeminded women has been something that Miu Miu has been playing around with for a while. They've hosted Miu Miu Musings events in New York and London and then they took their The Women's Tales film project to Venice Film Festival and bought together a group of diverse women in discussion. A women's club was therefore a natural progression and appropriate for London, a city with a rich history of member's clubs going as far back as the 17th century. Whilst female only member's clubs have existed before, they have traditionally been far outweighed by gentlemen's clubs and so Miu Miu sought to create a female orientated experience, one that seemed to fit the thinking that "The sprit of our time is not feminism, it's femininity" (overheard at the club…)
Pop magazine described it as a Disneyland for adult women and they're be right. (although plenty of guys seemed to enjoy it as well). It was three days devoted to pleasure of the most stimulating sort - in food cooked by inspiring female culinary role models like April Bloomfield (of the Spotted Pig, Breslin etc) and Margot Henderson (of the Rochelle Canteen), in the aesthetics of the decor (whilst the interiors are all Cafe Royal's own, the furniture was entirely designed and provided by Miu Miu), in the gathering of friends as members could bring their own guests in (males were allowed as guests) and of course in the visual and physical consumption of fashion evident in the sculptural installations in the hallways and the shop on the top floor where spring summer 13 and resort pieces can be bought. Still, the shop wasn't the main focus of The Miu Miu London. A decadent bar on the ground floor, the secondary lounge and terrace overlooking Regent Street from in-between the grand columns of the facade and the restaurant were the main social hubs with food, drink and attentive service flowing freely (quite literally free - every morsel and liquid I consumed there was £0) from all parts. It doesn't take much for me. Copious amounts of tea by day and vodka at night, good wifi, delicious food and cushy chaise lounges is a surefire recipe to all round contentment.
I liked that the limited product that Miu Miu were shilling were collaborations with other designers. Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Jones were given free rein of the window displays and also co-designing product with Miu Miu, with all proceeds going to Cool Earth and Macmillan Cancer Support. Jones designed a dress made out of that desirable S/S 13 dark denim and Vivienne Westwood created t-shirts, fronted by her Climate Revolution slogan and backed by recognisable prints from past Miu Miu collections. I had to snap up the S/S 10 pale blue cat print tee for pure posterity's sake as I chickened out of buying anything from the highly memorable chick-fest of swallows, nudes and pastel loveliness.
Conversation was an integral part of the event with discussions taking place each day in the more serious and cerebral Conversation Room. Actress Bonnie Wright showed her short film on the first day. Stephen Jones was interviewed by journalist Alice Rawsthorne last night. I attended the conversation about female role models conducted by The Gentlewoman editor in chief Penny Martin and Shala Monroque. It was a fascinating insight into the way women projected their hopes, dreams and aspirations through their role models. Artists, chefs, designers and journalists all nominated their role model and qualities ranging. Fearlessness came out on top as a popular quality. We then began to discuss the burdens of being a role model or having one to compare yourself to. I itched for the conversation to be longer but it was definitely a stimulating dialogue to listen to.
April Bloomfield's crab salad, which I was trying to eat without getting into a tangle with the long leafy fronds. Kate Moss and Jamie Hince were sitting on the table next to us which made for a surreal experience.
Despite my wanting to give Miuccia a giant bear hug for her generosity, my burning question that has been plaguing my mind is "Why???" In all reality, this wasn't a direct exercise to lure consumers in although it has generated events/party press with so many celebrities flitting in and out. VIP customers were I believe given membership too but by my reckoning, this was mostly an event restricted to those that are "friends" of Miu Miu or fashion press. A cynic would say that this member's club has buttered up the press forevermore and yet upon second thought, Prada and Miu Miu have never been difficult brands to lavish love upon, straddling creativity and commerce with aplomb. This was decadent branding done extremely well. Miu Miu isn't a brand that needs to create splashy, free-for-all extravaganzas. The "Shhhhh…. I've got a secret" feeling that an event like this generates, is in itself an unquantifiable and invaluable asset and perhaps further fuels desire within customers who do get wind of the club.
One of my favourite rules on the little rule card that came in the membership pack was "Photography and sharing is strictly encouraged." So here I am, sharing away and likewise the accompanying website has been regularly updated with video streams, Instagram pics, quotes and tidbits relating to the club, which allows everyone to partake even if they can't physically be there themselves. This heady post of gold, gilt, shocking pink, accessories and food is the sort of aesthetic haven I don't mind gorging on, even if it's just through JPGs. Therefore I can only conclude that what was an essentially industry-only club has evidently garnered positive after effects and once again, Miuccia has added depth and shade to the way an event can be conceived, conducted and publicised as a significant "happening". I can't even grumble about the brevity of The Miu Miu London. Its temporal nature is precisely what made the hours spent there so brilliantly memorable. When it rolls out to other cities (I hear Tokyo is up next?), it will be interesting to see how it unfolds in different cultural contexts.