There was something new in the air in Milan this season. In fact, it wasn't in the air - we didn't come there sensing, or even expecting, to be wowed. But wowed we were: the big-gun big names - Dolce e Gabbana, Fendi, Pucci, Marni - all churned out terrific collections, but the really great thing was that the really great things were clothes. They provided the buzz, not celebrities, star models or, God forbid, celebratory parties or anniversaries. This season, Milan was looking forward, not backwards, and it was invigorating to watch.
Look at Gucci, and what undoubtedly hit a high as the best collection Frida Giannini has produced for the house. In fact, it's up in the Gucci parthenon of greats, and when your forebear is Tom Ford, that's hitting pretty high. The inspiration was the familiar North African safari gig Yves Saint Laurent made his own, but the strength was in Giannini's shameless reappropriation and reinterpretation. You could forget the layers of seventies reference in her whip-laced crocodile safari suits and feathered embroideries: at the end of the day, this collection was about hot girls, in hot clothes, having fun. Simple as that.
The same was true of Versace - in fact, those are the golden rules all the very best Versace collections conform to. Donatella may have toyed with a mid-calf hemline, but there was nothing staid or matronly about these clothes, clawed open at strategic erogenous spots and coloured in an Iberian palette of lapis blue, vermillion, white and tawny flesh. It felt fresh and new, but was also about a neat update of the Versace legacy. The house's signature Greek key, hitherto relegated to flashy homewares, was revived and reinvented as a eye-boggling, scrambled-up print like a Photoshop experiment gone wrong. Best was when Donatella sliced her frocks off in the upper echelons of the thigh and sent fringe haywire, exploding from her models' bodies like a pixellating graphic. Their dynamic strength was an apt summary of the power of the Milan season as a whole.
Miuccia Prada isn't a name you'd immediately associate with razzle-dazzle frocks for good-time girls, but that was the inspiration behind her colour popped, sombrero-topped copacabana of a collection for spring. You can't be a brooding intellectual all your life, hence for next season Miuccia is channeling Josephine Baker and the buzzy, optimistic vibe of the 1920s. There were Riviera stripes, Hawaiian shirts scrolled with baroque decoration, and flirty flounce-bottom skirts in banana prints marching out on sandwich-sole espadrilles. Most of all, there was strident, saturated colour exploding from neck to toe to neon fox-fur stole.
Colour brings us, inevitably, to Jil Sander, a collection positively humming with highlighter-bright fluorescents that managed to make Prada's primary-banded numbers seem wishy-washy. Raf Simons kept the story crisp and clean - mid-century couture shapes filched from Cristóbal Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent (him again) sent into orbit in future-fantastic space-age brights in synthetic fibres that seemed to float around the body on a bubble of electrostatic. Electric, indeed, was the word, as an entire prism exploded across each and every one of Simons' outfits, wilfully clashing and crashing colour together to give a jolt of energy to these formerly staid shapes - an energy, indeed, that we haven't seen in Milan for many a year. It was a stand-out amongst stand-outs, which perhaps makes its power all the more awe-inspiring.
There's that word again: power. Maybe that was the real story of the Milan collections. It's a week that often plays on its own importance, labels fighting one another in a display of one-upmanship (my palazzo is bigger than your palazzo, that kind of thing). But of all the fashion weeks this season, Milan seemed to speak with the most consistent and harmonious voice, and that made its message all the clearer and more seductive.