The Cult Of Prada For Oyster #108

Who among us doesn’t want to know who we are and why we are?

Rachel Syme on Prada from Oyster #108: The Origins IssueIn May of last year Todd Haynes — the film director who constantly circles themes of alienation, repressed sexuality and the confines of femininity in his work (his most recent film was Carol, a clean, devastating Technicolor portrait of a lesbian love affair) — announced that for his next project he planned to focus on the Source Family, a 1970s Los Angeles rock ‘n’ roll cult built on the values of free love, veganism, morning marijuana and group sex. This topic feels like a particularly lush one for a director who is usually interested in subtext — the Source Family was a subject completely 
lacking in subtlety. It was all flash (its charismatic leader, Father Yod, committed suicide in 1975 via hang glider in Honolulu), loud drums, bright caftans and big houses full of beautiful young people and naked, giggling children. To meditate, members of the Source Family would often stand outside and stare into the sun until their eyes fuzzed out. And yet I can see the reason Haynes would want to take on such a flamboyant group of truth-seekers. As it turns out, cult families are full of unspoken secrets. There has to be a lot happening underneath the surface of a person for them to want to drop everything and change their name to something like Galaxy Aquarian, to leave their home and everything they know to move into a packed mansion high in the Hollywood Hills, to dedicate their life to sublimating the self in pursuit of higher consciousness.

I think often of an iconic recruitment poster for the Source Family. On it an earthy, beautiful young woman named Robin (but who went by Mother 
Ahom in the cult) smiles knowingly in a black-and-white photograph with her long, thick hair loose and wild, looking as if she is a cat who ate the cream of enlightenment. Underneath her face are the words “Wanted: Women Who Are Fed Up With Material Existence And Who Are Ready to Hear Who They Are And Why They Are.” I often think about how it would have been impossible for me to resist such a call if I had been wandering down Sunset Boulevard looking for purpose in the early 70s. Who among us doesn’t want to know who we are and why we are?

Of course, I am not yet a woman who is fed up with material existence. As I look at the beautiful young people gathered together in the rainforest in Prada clothes, looking like a nouveau Source Family but from a much more stylish planet, my first thought is: Screw nirvana, I want all the jackets. 
Give me stripes and shimmering sequins pouring down my chest.  Give me beautiful copper suede and shimmery paillettes, give me colour-blocked tunics in terracotta and cherry red. In the end, Technicolor and utopias can 
co-exist. I may not yet know who I am, but I would happily join a cult if Prada made the uniforms. These clothes make me feel ready to see the light.

Photography: Charles Dennington
Fashion: Oyster
Hair: Gavin Anesbury at Vivien’s Creative
Make-up: Molly Warkentin at Company 1

Photography Assistant: Peter Van Alphen
Make-up Assistant: Rob Povey
Models: Sebastian Boddeus & Patrick at The Agency, Viva & Yaya at Chic, Ashlee & Junior at Debut, Sam Callaghan, Alex & Lilla at Jaz Daly Management, Brooke Durrant & Cassie at London, Ruby Campbell at Priscillas, Emma & Gem at Work

Videographer: James J. Robinson
Original score: Mitchell Wood of Leisure Suite
Sound recordist: Emelia Portellos

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