Miuccia Prada has always been obsessed with taste. Perhaps her greatest contribution to contemporary fashion has been her consistent and persistent pushing at those boundaries: for Mrs Prada, taste is sometimes good, often bad, and always acquired.
So then to her Spring 2012 menswear collection - and just because its menswear doesn't mean Miuccia shies away from pushing our reset button when it comes to taste. Here we were in decidedly dodgy territory: Palm Springs circa 1968, perhaps; John Waters' Baltimore a decade later, possibly; a nondescript but decidedly acidic golf club anytime around the mid-century, when synthetics rules and you could have any colour as long as it wasn't black. A couple of boys even toted printed Prada putting-gear just to underline that allusion. Maybe this new season of 'Resort' that sprang, fully-formed, from the purely commercial shop-filler of yesteryear over the past couple of seasons has something to do with her thought-processes. As ever, it's hard to say.
Sontag's much-overused camp statement - it's good because it's awful - has drifted into one's mind at many a Prada show, but it hasn't been this insistent for quite a while. This entire collection was hideous, but intentionally so. There's no way you car-crash together eye-popping Lilly Pulitzer prints with geometrics, tweeds and multi-coloured golf cleats that seem crafted from Lego bricks and don't known you're doing something that will make most people cringe. Likewise the camp touches of slithery silk scarf over bared torso, those jaunty berets in cartoonish multicoloured prints, or jewelled bi-colour shirts that conjured up suburban imagery of line-dancing and bowling tournaments.
This collection was a play on kitsch and camp, maybe more obviously than Prada has ever done before. There was also, undoubtedly, an affection there. This wasn't hard, cynical camp: the smiles may have been wry and knowing, but they were genuine. There was humour - and indeed, with jaunty kerchiefs, bright colours and beefy, blocky shapes, it was good simple fun. No over-analysis needed of that. Sometimes even Prada just wants to have a laugh.
Well, maybe. Prada is floating on the stock market, and an insidious concern for the bottom line was ever-present. Then again, fashion a business - Prada never forgets that even for a second. Dissect those clothes and the shapes are simple, non-threatening and easily worn. Some clever Prada classics were present too: those crystal-crusted envelope clutches and shoes were a throwback to A/W 2009's sell-out studs, while the prints look ready to achieve the iconic status of this season's baroque chimpanzees and block-colour bananas. Even as I write this, that initial Prada stomach-lurch - the sick feeling in the pit of your belly that you always get when Miu shows you what's new, and your idea of beauty is thrown entirely off-kilter - is beginning to wear off, and the product lust is starting to set in. Good taste, bad taste, no taste, whatever. It's that urge to acquire that's all-important.