Milan Fashion Week: Prada spring/summer 2012
Miuccia Prada presented one of her most personal collections in years.
Every season the Prada show is a game changer. Where Miuccia Prada steps, you'll generally see everyone else falling in line behind her. That can take fashion to some interesting and even dark places. She's constantly pushing the boundaries of what's beautiful, alluring and feminine. Ugliness is a scab she can't help scratching, although always in an attempt to make it appealing.
But on Thursday night she didn't have to search too far for her inspiration - probably no further than her mirror. This was probably one of her most personal collections in years: the below the knee pleated skirts, the bomber jackets (in luxurious satins and embroidered leathers) and the chiffon twinsets were how she likes to dress.
"I always come back to the bourgeois roots of Prada," said the onetime Communist party supporter. Italian communist that is; it's different, they wore Yves Saint Laurent on their protest marches.
If that meant that the knife pleated chiffon skirts had a familiar look about them - they were already a huge hit this summer, albeit in less exalted fabrics, thanks to British high street chains - at least they were all the more lovely for not being esoteric.
This was a crowd pleasing show and no mistake - a surprise, given that Prada has just posted a big rise in profits which might normally be the cue for tricky experimentation. But perhaps the times require a balm. If so, this was it: ravishing colour combinations (baby blue with red; aqua with pink) and investment pieces such as the duchess satin evening coats with crocheted lace fronts, and printed chiffon dresses that turned out to be matching shirts and skirts. "Much more practical," said Prada.
There were also unmistakable references to early Sixties Americana - car prints, fender details on heels, lady-like bags, some as flat as a folded newspaper. "That I didn't intend," she confessed. "I wanted it to be contemporary."
Surely she could see the nostalgic influences: the automobile theme was a clear nod to clichéd fantasies of a bee-hived blonde at the wheel of a big convertible Buick. And guess what? It went down a storm. Her audience, sometimes left scratching their chins after a Prada show, would have whooped, if that weren't completely outside accepted behaviour at fashion shows. Instead, they clapped loudly - as even the models did backstage. After a long day in heels, that's exhausting.