The audience, seated in a tiered pit painted swimming pool blue, gazed upon a cartoonish set depicting palm trees, and sunset-dappled seascapes. But when the lightswent up, instead of the Go-Go’s crooning “Vacation” came the thump-thump of a military helicopter over an ominous ambient throb.

Miuccia Prada had turned the clichés of an exotic holiday on their head, instead imagining something “dark and menacing,” as she put it backstage. Her premise, that a conflict-torn globe makes finding a carefree place in the sun ever more elusive, yielded a tour de force collection, and a show as captivating as a film noir set in pre-war Honolulu.

The fashion news — and a bevy of vaguely Thirties women’s looks created especially for the show — came fast and furious: Hawaiian shirts, broken suits, satin-y blousons, and leisure shoes cloaked in rubber. As elsewhere in Milan, the colors were exceptionally dark for a spring collection, but Prada sparked her sale-rack vintage palette with bold and lively prints mingling jungle foliage and pinup girls, even splashing them onto leather briefcases and weekenders that are sure to be hits come next spring.

The big surprise of the show was her commitment to a more relaxed silhouette in six-button double-breasted or single-breasted jackets, either in lustrous wools or crisp cotton. They looked sensational over silky printed shirts and Prada’s new full-legged trousers, proving that strong fashion can be as much an escape as a package tour.

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