Prada: What is fashion but a tale of enchantment? It's about being charmed, taken in, lured by the promise of magical transformation. The old aspirational marketing ploy tied up with a bow.

Or in Miuccia Prada's case, drawn ever so deftly as an exquisite fairyland. The mesmerizing collection Prada showed on Tuesday evening illustrated her brilliance with stunning clarity. It was all there: the social statement, the wonder, the artistry, the mega installation and, oh, yes, the merch, as well as the cleverness to meld those various elements in a manner that disguised the ingenious, wanton commercial-ness of it all. As for the social statement, after the show Prada said she was commenting on the state of the world today, and that the only way to cope is to retreat into one's own fantasy world. She also mused vaguely about technology, travel and the image of women around the world.

Which of course brings us quite naturally to the Rem Koolhaas set, done up with huge murals illustrated to recall Art Nouveau fantasy renderings, at least until the lights went down and the place went techno neon. Then out came a girl in silken pajamas printed with romantic otherworldly creatures. But immediately Prada offered a more grounded reality — a computer-print shirt and pants in blue, green and purple. She may have been engaging in a Yeatsian dialogue about the relative merits of both worlds, fantasy and human; more likely, she sought to establish early on that her whimsy only goes so far.

The counterpoint went on throughout the show. Faeries cavorted, flowers bloomed and clouds shaded the gentlest of dresses often cut with eccentric off-kilter keyhole necklines and worn atop sculptural shoes that sprouted tulips and upside-down roses for heels. These alternated with fabulous skinny knits and dresses and separates — including daring pants kept tight through the thigh and flared big-time at the knee — in assorted graphic prints with a quietly subversive attitude. But just the kind of seductive subversion that communicates the most powerful of messages.

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