By  on May 16, 2006

Lush, overgrown rain forest lures with the promise of adventure and likely danger. Every so often huge, vibrant jungle flowers sprout out of nowhere, shocks of colorful respite from the dense darkness. Then, a blur here and there, and this projected landscape grows hazy, morphing into one urban reality and then another and back and forth, from flora and fauna to ancient ruin to imposing steel structure, each locale at once beautiful and threatening. How should a girl citizen of this ever-changing, dangerous world prepare to take on such varied, threatening terrain? According to Miuccia Prada, by suiting up in regalia all as lush and savage as her surroundings. Thus her fearless fall brigade wore aggressive, brashly chic pilings of clothes with roots in Japanese, sports and medieval warrior motifs, as they stomped past Rem Koolhaas' stunning projections.

"It's time to go back to the streets of the world, showing anger and being a little bit savage," Prada said after the presentation at her house's vast headquarters. "I'm tired of all that passive, sweet femininity that tries to appeal to everybody. We women should go back to some strength."

In a Milan minute, one of the industry's mega influencers articulated the need for a major change in fashion, while setting forth her bold proposal. So arrivederci, passive femininity; ciao bella, a whole new generation of tough chic. Fashion's turn toward bleak started last fall with, most notably, Marc Jacobs' Violet Incredible collection, Prada's own, gentler sobriety and Olivier Theyskens' titillating melancholy for Rochas, as well as various other designers' sojourns to the dark side. Yet having thus set sail, some abandoned ship almost immediately; for spring Prada herself reverted to a toned-down variation of the girlish artsiness that has been her most recent forte.

Now, however, the hesitation some may have had—perhaps fear of going abruptly dark and heavy for spring after so many seasons of fluffery—seems a thing of the past, as fashion's best and brightest are reveling in dramatic sobriety, often to very different effects. Leading the charge along with Prada, Jacobs and Theyskens are John Galliano, both at Dior and his own house; Jean Paul Gaultier, and even girly-girl Donatella Versace. No less a deity than Karl Lagerfeld made his splashy New York debut with a gutsy collection of all Goth—with considerable Belgian, Japanese and Helmut Lang references—all the time. And speaking of those geographic stereotypes—a fashion reality, and not without validity—the references were everywhere, raising the possibility of a Belgian renaissance after a long stint on the fringe. As for the Japanese, the Comme des Garçons trio—Kawakubo, Watanabe and Tao Kurihara—all had hits. Sadly, however, given the ubiquity of Yamamoto chords all over fashion, some of the most woeful—the bad kind, not the perfectly chic and on-trend kind—were from Yohji himself.

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