MILAN, Italy — At first, the jacket and skirt looked like a bourgeois suit. Tweed and plaid. The conservative norm. But such a thing only exists for Miuccia Prada to turn it on its head. The skirt turned sheer, the jacket went pyjama, a mystery veil appeared from somewhere and stayed (for the record, they were real antique veils, the last stock of a company that specialised in such items in the 1920s and 30s).
There were sheer dresses with dropped waists that suggested the 20s — the Art Deco undertow was reinforced by the hair and makeup, gold lipstick and perfectly pasted-down bobs suggesting creatures from a Chiparus sculpture. The striped jacquards evoked Prada’s turning-of-the-tide “pretty/ugly” collection from Spring 1996, the prints of rockets, rabbits and cars, carried over from the last menswear collection had a spacey naiveté. The metallic bauble on a pointy flat? Straight outta Ballets Russes… There were layers upon layers of associations — which soundtrackist Frederic Sanchez (Miuccia herself absent due to a death in the family) artfully defined as “fragments of life”.
Which was just like his music, another of his signature hallucinatory blurrings of eras and sounds: Belgian chanteuse Viktor Lazlo crooning "Cry Me a River", Lydia Lunch’s no-wave anomie, the big band of Carla Bley matched to the edgy atonality of Siouxsie Sioux. The resulting aural stew was like post-apocalyptic cocktail music. Before the show, negronis with a significant kick were served. Afterwards, the passed canapés included specific items that Mrs P remembered from her parents’ parties in the 1950s.
How convincing — or even relevant — is such a cumulative mass of detail? Does it rationalise the co-existence of a cricket sweater, sore thumb in this context, and sensationally striped leather suits? The lack of a seamless whole must have delighted Miuccia. She has always loved kicking against the traces. But in so doing, she opens the doors of perception to multiple interpretations. That seems appropriate to a fashion proposal as wilful as Prada’s.
So, here goes. Think of the new Prada collection as a cocktail party for the strung-out wives of space jockeys. That rocket print was one cue, the neat little suits another. Consider the bauble earrings, the flat silver boots, the thicket of flying saucer paillettes enveloping shoulders, the canapés wrapped in plastic like astronauts’ freeze-dried food... booze and barbiturates accounted for the narcotised music. And then, a finale with more paillettes, translucent and luminous — like starlight, viewed through the bottom of a tumbler.