After a fashion show, a critic typically rushes from the venue back to office, home, hotel, wherever, and writes as carefully considered a review as deadline — usually right now — permits.  

Following Miuccia Prada’s cruise show last night, I ignored that deep-rooted conditioning to actually enjoy, rather than fret through, the post-show fete (Tonne Goodman — a delightful dinner companion), and went home to bed after what I thought was quite a strong show. A night’s sleep and some morning rumination told me I was wrong. Prada’s show wasn’t merely strong. It was brilliant.

Not deep-thoughts, esoteric brilliant, but aggressively commercial, resort-long-selling-season-give-me-a-smart-coat-and-pants brilliant. “It’s like a fantasy and the reality,” Prada said, describing her motif du jour. “Of course, [a show is] always a fantasy. It’s my fantasy on what today for me is real.” 

A longtime holdout from the cruise extravaganza, Prada acknowledged that market realities ultimately forced her hand. “Everybody is doing more, and so you have to adapt, more or less,” she said.

So after years of sprinkling women’s cruise looks into her June men’s show, last year she staged a full resort show in Milan. This time she opted for another of her brand’s “homes,” its Herzog & de Meuron-designed New York headquarters, where colored window filters turned the vast westward-looking vistas a heady red and blue. 

But the sunset on the Hudson proved secondary viewing, as Prada showed how to make reality-based cruise clothes — many quite simple and on trend as opposed to trend-setting — compelling. It set a high bar on the front end of resort, a protracted period during which ho and hum are typically the season’s biggest directions. 

Prada went geeky-cool Nineties in a major way, inclusive of specific references to the spring 1996 collection in which she famously thrust “ugly” prints into the forefront for fashion. She kept her shapes clean and often structured — neat, trim jackets over short skirts and low-slung pants. Ample street and sport references served two purposes, seemingly antithetical: currency, and a reminder that Prada did both, albeit differently, years ago. 

Differently — an essential distinction. True, one couldn’t miss the audacious Nineties-ness at play. But Prada doesn’t merely redo; she designs. While twentysome years ago her collections tended toward structured minimalism, here her simplest looks were languid. She opened with a plain black sweater and long, opaque brown skirt that delivered a sly take on casual sexiness, a mood replicated in gentle dresses. At the same time, Millennial Miuccia is far more interested in overt ornamentation than was her Nineties self. Here, that decorative impulse came in the extras, delightful giant padded trapper hat and oddly spangled hose, as well in the clothes themselves. Side-wrapped micro minis got an unfussy vertical ruffle and newfangled pocket logo; athletic popovers came in leather spliced with cable-knit yoke wedges, and color-blocked polo shirts featured tricked-out placket ruffles. Eventually, the ugly prints gave way to lavish classical brocades that instantly elevated the mood of the precision-cut jackets and skirts. And throughout: an ongoing array of smart, versatile outerwear, including chicly efficient leather coats. 

A resort lineup of practical clothes for women to wear and feel comfortable in that held one’s interest on the runway — every showgoer’s fantasy of reality come true.  

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