Prada autumn/winter 2011 at Milan Fashion Week
The show started an hour late, but worth the wait: sexy, charming and an introduction to a new ageless innocence.
Unusually, the Prada show started just over an hour late, because, as Miuccia Prada explained backstage, later, she had started thinking about the clothes the night before and at the last minute had decided to make some changes, in the finish and the styling.
Whatever the reason, it was well worth the wait.
In a sublime statement about contemporary dressing, Ms Prada referenced the 1920s and 1960s - two of her favourite decades - dropped the waist to the hipline, mixed colours like Rothko, and invented a 'trompe l'oeil' sock-boot that was a fusion of sock and spat.
The essential silhouette was narrow and straight, and just on the knee, contrasted with over-large sleeves, gigantic collars and lapels, and that low-slung hip-action, defined with a belt, generally with a contrast buckle.
There was an emphasis on coats, seen in olive snake, big checks in purple and red, mixed with white details, huge silver buttons, or collars in dyed fur, both fake and real. At times, a chequerboard front, marked with a large contrast band of colour, was mixed with a plain back.
The look was slightly sci-fi, evoking the 'space age' uniforms of early television series, but at the same time harking back to the grace and swing of the Jazz Age and Charleston eras. This was particularly true of the schoolgirl-like dresses, collared like a shirt, embellished with silver buttons, and featuring kilt-like pleats, in the manner of a gym-slip - so modest and innocent from the front, but revealing a scooped-out back and spinal cleavage as the models moved away.
The audience watched the show in Prada's via Fogazzaro headquarters, a 21st century concrete gothic space, which was transformed into a white performance arena, on two floors. The models proceeded at a determined pace, up and down two flights of metal stairs, past guests seated on white concrete boxes in a series of conversational booths.
International make-up artist, Pat McGrath, had gone for a fresh, wide-eyed look, which emphasised the eyes with brown shadows, the cheeks with liberal amounts of blush, and no colour on the lips, save for a smudge of the same blush on.
The hair was tied back in pony-tails, or hidden beneath shiny helmets, fastened with a chin-strap, or wild, fuzzy 'wig-hats'.
The chemise-line was followed through for evening, with a dazzling parade of low-belted shifts, hand-embroidered with hundreds of CD-sized sequins and paillettes, in contrasting shades of wine and orange, rust and fluoro-yellow; or shimmering pastels, which rustled like sea-shells in the tide as the models strode by. Fake fur and sheepskin collars added a decadent, after-dark touch.
"I wanted to make sexy materials look different," Ms Prada explained. "I always have this obsession about materials, like sequins, and fur and python, and with how women feel about the materials clothes are made from. And, this time, I wanted to turn things around, to have not girls dressing like a lady, but women dressing like something more innocent."
Her intention was made manifest in a collection of clothes as ageless as they were perfectly and charmingly realized.