Desert bleak? Space chic? Huge purple sand dunes fading into a brownish carpet and a harsh, dissonant soundtrack kept guests at Miuccia Prada’s show on Thursday night wondering. Yet few wondered whether Prada would awe them, only how.


Prada billed her spring collection as a celebration of fabric craft. “Why are people attracted to antiquity more and more?” she mused backstage. “That kind of quality, the ability of the craftsmen, is going to be lost. I want to do my part.” That meant sourcing and reproducing 30 brocades dating from the 19th century through the Sixties. Lavish, intricate, gorgeous — you bet. Yet even buying into Prada’s artisanal philanthropy, her shows are always character studies, the stage persona revealed through the clothes. Here, that study played out ultimately as a slyly weird good-girl, bad-girl inner struggle. The winner: fabulous fashion.

Prada sought to modernize her beautiful, stately fabrics by extracting their preciousness. She injected a tough element that read Western, Prairie, a little Badlands. A Seventies ring? Yes, but only partly (in conjunction with a repressed sheath-clad sexpot) and always the opposite of mundane. An unapologetic appropriations expert, Prada evokes an era, a mood, a concept, and creates around it.

She got into her fabric celebration deftly, with dark tailored looks, seams and faux tailor’s markings outlined in contrasting stitching: trim notched-collared coat; skirt suit; tunic over skirt. Then came a high-collared dress with inset-floral brocade yoke, the first indication of fabric fancy, followed by inventive incorporations of the rich brocades: leather car coat strung with diagonal stripes of fabric; skirt with intricately swirling front panel contrasting the yellow varsity sweater vest with which it was shown. Many of the looks were polished to the point of prim. But along the way, things started to unravel in unfinished hems and seams that floated in distinct contrast to the brocades’ inherent hauteur. The accessories indicated the girl’s inner push-pull: coy color-blocked knee socks and dangerous sparkly earrings. (As for the bags, no dilemma there. Good girl, bad girl — they’d both sell their souls for one of these beauties.)

There was a lot going on, but Prada reminded all of the importance of design with her penultimate look: a plain, raw cotton dress with dressmaker markings in black, a reminder that schtick means nothing without clarity of design.

Prada’s girl worked this push-pull to a fare-thee-well, unleashing her own — and her clothes’ — powers of sartorial seduction.