If there's a trend, Miuccia Prada's going to buck it. That's the only thing you can rely on with her feverishly febrile mind - still, the A/W 2010 Prada show was somewhat of a shock, even to eyes ever-attuned to the slightest nuance of new. While everyone else seems to be wrapping up, Mrs Prada is stripping down, removing extraneous ornamentation, taking the stuffing out of suits and paring everything way, way back. Indeed, 'back' was evidently the word on her mind - this Prada show was an unabashed exercise in retro, looking back through Prada house history and fashion's archives alike. At first glance it was back to the seventies: lashing of beige, vinyl car-coats, and short cable-knit acrylic-alike tank-tops and cardigans over shirts with a hefty inch of poplin visible below the hem. Geometric wallpaper prints in eye-popping contrasts of primary and secondary hues mottled the surfaces of silk anoraks, knit collars popped out of short pea-coats and thick plastic buttons fastened every chunky jacket. But the clue was in the soundtrack - nineties hits from Shakespear's Sister, Nirvana and Oasis. Apply that tired old chestnut of the twenty-year rule, and the nineties are now ripe for revival - and glance again at that Prada show, at it wasn't merely seventies revival, but Prada's own seventies revival. Call it retro retro, for those clever wordsmiths amongst you. In short, this was a redux of some of Prada's greatest nineties hits circa 1994-1996 - dodgy colour palette, topstitched jersey suiting, 'Geek Chic' and all. Here's a tester for fashion anoraks out there - remember when those mottled, pockmarked brown Prada platforms were voted the ugliest shoes in the world? No? Well, they have contenders with Miuccia's latest menswear offerings: purposefully tasteless square-toed loafers in conker-brown leather, flapping with oversized golf cleats.
Prada's spring women's show was, of course, another sly glance back through her house archives (those fray-edged bermuda shorts and bubbly, kitsch-print gazers) but never has she filched as blatantly as this. Whether remembering it from the first time or not, this show made many in the audience baulk. Which, one suspects, was precisely her point. Miuccia Prada has stated that she often takes something she hates as the inspiration behind her collections - that odd, 'off' quality that marks something out as fundamentally Prada. Certainly there was something off about this entire collection - maybe just how fresh those shrunken proportions and sullen, slightly sickening colours seemed once more. At points, the clothing shown was questionable, at others tacky, at some just plain ugly, but always consciously so. And that is really what marks Miuccia Prada out as a true taste-maker of modern fashion. All that remains to be seen is how long it takes everyone to come round to her way of thinking - I'd put money on it happening pretty soon.