By  on February 20, 2008

Miuccia Prada moved in a new direction this season, creating a stunning Prada fall collection that was full of lace in strong, clean-lined shapes. There were sheaths, jackets and great-looking suits. Here, one of the last, worn with a tailored shirt.

Prada: Change — it's what fashion is all about. Yet few designers can move 180 degrees from one season to the next and still stay utterly themselves. Miuccia Prada is one. On Tuesday evening, Prada sent out a brilliant lace-based collection that was feminine, strong and intriguingly austere, and that owed debts to haute couture as well as early Nineties Prada (call up those Geek Chic button-up shirts).

Remember last season's mesmerizing fairyland? No sprightly shenanigans here. Prada leapt a world away to a place all about arch control done up in lace, a material she had long disliked until she happened upon a certain swatch and found herself obsessed. Of course, hers is not of the prissy ilk, but fabulous cotton and wool lace from Switzerland often boasting big, graphic flowers, and always, considerable heft. "It was extraordinary," said one of Prada's guests, artist Thomas Demand, of the show. "There was no flamboyance, apart from the shoes, which were amazing."

In fact, everything about it amazed, starting with the long, lean silhouette punctuated by leather snoods for the hair and those shoes that featured offbeat ruffled extensions. (As the set was a rounded, steeply inclined runway, thick elastic bands that stretched around the foot and under the sole kept the shoes on the girls' feet and the girls on their feet.) Out the clothes came, sheaths, suits, remarkable halter-and-shirt pairings, the openwork lace unlined over crisp shirtings, the denser lace less revealing. When Prada digressed from lace, it was with other fabrics that referenced it: a lace print as well as two-tone painterly faille, sheer perforated organzas and black meltons for boldly ruffled coats. Yet for all of the surface interest, a sense of confident calm prevailed, with an undercurrent of minimalism in spirit if not in fact. Lest one miss that point, the designer de-laced momentarily with a skirt and dress stark in their unfettered beigeness.Accessories? How about big, demonstratively ruffled day bags and a belt attached to a wide, structured lace peplum, which, Prada noted, can alter any silhouette. "Fashion is change," she said. And no one changes with more bravado or impact than Prada. It's who she is.

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