by Alex Fury .

Milan Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2012: A Retrospective Mood

Yesterday, I twice found myself in cavernous rooms looking at Prada frocks with an analytical eye. One time was at Palazzo Reale, for a presentation of the concept behind the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibition Impossible Conversations, due to open at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on 10 May 2012. The other was a re-see of the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection Mrs Prada showed on Thursday, held not at the contemporary art-jumbled showroom on Via Maffei but in the cavernous Prada show space at Via Fogazzaro. Maybe they want to get all the wear they can out of that gargantuan carpet?

It was interesting seeing the two back to back, because you couldn't help but draw similarities between them. The purple and orange palette of Thursday's collection was reflected in a Prada skirt from Autumn/Winter 1999. Miuccia herself was wearing a geometric-print duster coat which could gave been new, or equally could have hailed from the 1996 'Ugly Chic' collection. 'Ugly Chic' is incidentally one of the concepts to be explored in the Met's survey, which will examine the aesthetic conversations between Schiap and Miuch pieces, looking at the way both designers used concepts such as surrealism, decoration and indeed ugliness to question the fashion conventions of their time.

She may be another female Italian designer, but Donatella Versace has nothing to add to the ugly chic conversation. The Versace woman doesn't want to look ugly. She wants to look sexy. Donatella delivered that in spades last night, in a glittering re-imagining of the Middle Ages via mid-century Las Vegas. Everyone else saw Hollywood star Roony Mara in those blunt-cut fringes - maybe including Donatella herself. I saw Joan of Arc, albeit Joan of Arc at the disco. The technique behind the laser-cut leather mesh and chain-mail evening gowns were inspiring. The vision was old-fashioned (figure-of-eight voluptuousness sketched across the body through short and long dresses and flared coats worn over skin) but the tools with which it was rendered felt modern. It added up to a powerful if slightly unwearable whole.

Today, after an excellent Bottega Veneta show by Tomas Maier, the must-see is Raf Simons' final collection for Jil Sander.

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