Having to précis Prada is one of the toughest mind games in the business. All critics know is that they might as well leave their usual compasses at the door: Whatever Mrs. P is onto next is guaranteed to throw ready-made vocabulary and easy references into disarray. How, then, to capture the meaning of a show that started with a plain gray mannish coat and then moved into boxy, furry, laminated, bubbling, natural-cum-synthetic color and texture? Meaning, schmeaning, says Miuccia. As the anxious hordes pressed backstage for an intellectual coda from the oracle, she gave them a friendly Italian laugh. "Eh! The only thing I could think of was to work on color and materials," she shrugged. "Something simple but strange."
Simple but strange: She said it. In a way, the schoolgirl coats, gray uniform cardigans and jumpersand the sort of intransigently unsexy girl who wore themseemed to be a return to the minimalist nineties character of Prada's early collections. Simple, but not quite: Some of the coats now have capelike slits where the sleeves should be, or a nice twenties slouch in the back, caught into a low half-belt. The strange? That came fast and furious with the addition of tufty mohair, first on the front of a cardigan, then as shaggy coatsthis season's fur replacement. Then, to make it all the more complex, there was a running contradiction between rough-hewn primitivism (like raw-edged tan leather) and almost toxic plasticized orange, bright green, and off-turquoise, laminated onto spongy knits.
Suffice to say, the color-blocking was brilliantly original, and further offset by the bonkers footless two-tone socks thrust into weird backward-curving cone heels. As for subtexts, one might be Mrs. Prada's penchant for walking holidays in the mountainshence the socks, the woolly ski beanies, and, maybe, the extraordinary fabrics woven to change from black to bubbly outcrops of rocky brown and grass green. Was this an abstraction of screes and verdant slopes seen from afar? Oh, let's not get pretentious. As Miuccia Prada is the first to point out, it's all fashionbetter processed by the eye than justified by any number of words. Just judge by the pictures, then. All you might want to factor in is this one extra, invisible subtext: a soundtrack of some very angry girls, chanting lines like "poke his eyes out." If Miuccia really did breathe in her inspiration with the alpine air, she didn't exactly come back with The Sound of Music. Instead, she created a collection that seems destined to be one of the pivotal influences of the season.