When it comes to Miu Miu, Miuccia Prada’s presence in Paris is no passing fancy: She recently signed a long-term lease on a spectacular private mansion on the Avenue Foch where she expects to show for some time.

And in her second outing, she put a punctuation mark on this peculiar season. It was neither exclamation point nor bland “It’s over” period. Rather, with the collection she proposed on Sunday night, Prada offered an essential question mark: Is there valid fashion between overt femininity and cartoon futurism? Is there a fresh way to approach structure and minimalism?

Though Prada is still often regarded as the ultimate intellectual-artistic designer, that handle describes her only in part. By her own admission, she is immersed in the commerce game, loves the challenge and approaches design from that hybrid perspective. Thus, the questions raised by her show were as much about what will sell next spring as about the need for artistic diversity.

Her position was anti-frill; severe structure with a strong architectural bent and no-nonsense attitude. But she achieved this with none of the plasticized posing seen elsewhere. Rather, Prada rendered precision control in rich-toned color blocks of stiff satin and faille, opening with small-collared shirts over trousers. Though these seemed uncomfortably rigid and even heavy, the motif evolved beautifully with determined dresses and miniskirts, the latter often crafted from inverted arcs of fabric for a modernist scallop effect. These, as well as looks appliquéd with bunched, swirling fabric strips, made for a deft decorative minimalism, and one can envision legions of fashionable women embracing the mood.

Prada softened up slightly with long silk dresses emblazoned with bold tribal prints and more so with charming tennis fare. But even these retained a certain austerity, in a collection that this season made for a much-needed dose of alternative chic of the salable sort.

For complete coverage see tomorrow's issue of WWD.

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