February 24, 2010 Milan
"It's normal clothes," she said backstage before her show. "Classics. Revising the things I did in the nineties." Behind her, models, hair done up in sixties beehives, were changing. Among them were Doutzen Kroes, Catherine McNeil, Lara Stone, and Miranda Kerr, young women whose relatively curvaceous beauty has generally exempted them from being cast as exemplars of female gorgeousness on runways such as Prada's for the past few years.
The clothes themselves were a deliberate, and quietly humorous, compliment to the womanly. If it's the possession of breasts that's been bothering model-casting agents for the past few years, this collection was a nightmare scenario for them. The ample bust was the unavoidable focal point of the silhouette, picked out in balconies of lace ruffles and upstanding pointy-bra formations on raised-waist, wide-skirted dresses and coats. Any girl on the runway who didn't have the natural Bardot-esque equipment was bestowed with it by means of frothy fabric placements, but the eye naturally migrated to the ones who did. The others, young and pretty as they are, marched on in the usual kind of anonymity. In fashion, appreciating the exceptional is always more interesting.
Model politics apart, this was not a one-issue shape-lib show. For aficionados, the collection was, as the designer promised, a thorough revisiting of Prada's strengths. She worked the house double-face cashmere into flattering dance-skirted fifties-sixties dresses and skirts, detailed jackets and coats with double-layered collars of cable knit and fur, cut A-line skirts in patent leather, and reprised her signature scratchy-grid prints. Then she broke into an extended riff on Prada knitwear, made into tweedy peacoat-ed suits and chunky belted sweaters. By the time she sent out black coats, smothered with jet embroidery, the entire repertoire of brand Prada—down to the pointy pumps and kooky tweedy socks—had been refreshed and reconsolidated.
It was nice to see that Prada envisages this being worn by women other than the zombie army of teen models that has roamed her runway recently—and that has influenced others to mimic that uniform aesthetic. Customers, she can be assured, will like that shift—but will it have a bigger ripple effect than that? Miuccia Prada is a fashion-industry influencer. Let's see who scrambles to follow the leader.