Dazzle us - whoever laid down that particular gauntlet to Miuccia Prada for Autumn/Winter 2012 deserves a pat on the back. Although one suspects the metaphorical challenger was Mrs Prada herself. Because dazzling is certainly the word for the jewel-outlined, richly-coloured and razor-focussed show that she turned out, a gem of a collection for an unsure world.
Miuccia is plugged into every nuance of fashion: legendary are the tales of her ditching entire collections to create something off the cuff and spur-of-the-moment. She's been building up the decoration in her past few offerings, crusting shift-dresses with penny-sized paillettes and studding satin coats with rhinestones. In a society where even the racy concept of 'vajazzling' raises neither eyebrows nor hackles, extraneous embellishment of every available surface feels like the mood of the moment. It was certainly the leitmotif of this collection, a Maharajah's ransom of paste running up and down the hems of otherwise simple and severe black tunics, trousers and cutaway coats. Some came in a tessellated brocade, squares smothered with sequins. Even the shoes, toweringly high platform spectator-pumps occasionally coated with rubber protective layers, were dotted with crystal.
But all that was just the surface. The silhouettes were slender, rigid and Minimal. It was opulence, restrained. Or maybe it was opulent restraint - an enormous Bauhaus-patterned carpet engulfed her show space for the second season in a row. It was severe, but luxurious. Everyone else seems to be towing the austere line, and in a sense Miuccia went along with trend, while offering her own imitable-but-never-equalled slant. There was a wry glance back at her own history also, embellishing facsimiles of her minimal, graphically-jacquarded nineties trousersuits with stones the size of gobstoppers and colouring them in brilliant vermillion and violet alongside their original bruised tones of khaki and lilac.
There was no differentiation between day or eveningwear: Prada showed formal tailcoats alongside virulently-patterned suiting that almost slid into the pyjama category. There was a couple of astrakhan overcoats that did double-duty as robes too. In fact, there was no overt theme. Miuccia Prada does that every once in a while, shying away from 'fashion' as it were and simply designing rather gorgeous clothes. Sometimes, that's also when her designs hit their most powerful level. There was something about this collection that will speak to women everywhere, urging them to indulge. And indulgence is really what Prada is selling.