"Sweetness." Miuccia Prada's summation of her new collection was surprisingly direct. But only she could add a contrary gloss to an idea that, on the surface at least, seemed entirely benign. She'd been trying to wrap her head around this paradox: Why should a quality that the world at large considers such an asset to womanhood be so shunned by the fashion industry? That state of affairs is unlikely to prevail for much longer, given the crazy level of influence Miuccia wields over fashion (her dropped waists from Fall are other designers' big statement for Spring). So better ready yourself to Celebrate the Sweet.
Except no one else will be able to do it quite like this. Italian men have two meaningful relationships in their lives: women and cars. Miuccia put the two together—women in cars—and situated them in a moment in time (maybe the last such) when the world was awash with unambiguous hope for the future. That would be the 1950's. If the Prada men's collection for Spring was haunted by the ghost of Elvis, its female counterpart paraded echoes of Marilyn in her accordion-pleated dress from The Seven Year Itch. The models did walk over a subway grate, but it was unfortunately technically impossible to provide the updraft that would have gusted skirts skyward in a re-creation of one of Hollywood's most iconic movie moments.
There were, however, other, equally resonant ways for Miuccia to make her point. The celluloid iconography was irresistible: B-movie roadhouse gals in bandeau tops and leather pencil skirts that had been customized by their spray-painting mechanic boyfriends; David Lynch heroines in varsity jackets and sunray pleats; rhinestone cowgirls in studded Baracutas. If the sweetness in such tough cookies was a little elusive, Miuccia also offered coats in lace or crochet in palest pink and blue and bathing suits that begged for pinup poses round the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Plus, the adorable print theme from the men's collection took an automotive turn. At the very least, Italian manhood will be happy. But the rest of the world should feel just as uplifted when the double whammy of Prada menswear and womenswear hits stores next spring. Dare you not to smile.