Italian labels are very fond of selling a lifestyle, rather than just the style for a life, but few designers do it with quite the bravado of Miuccia Prada. Each season, she installs a different set-pieces along (or occasionally around) which to enact her fashion fantasies. For Autumn/Winter 2012, Mrs Prada chose to smother the Brutalist concrete floor of her Via Fogazzaro headquarters with a monumental Modernist carpet. Some 2,500 square feet to be precise. The cavernous space was lit by enormous chandeliers. That, in itself, was a fashion statement - the space was dressed, rather formally as it happens, for the evening's show. It was the Prada Palazzo.
In fact, Palazzo is perhaps too Italian a term. There was something Teutonic, rigid and rigorous about the colours of that carpet, about the fact the chandeliers were neon tubes rather than glistening crystal. Bauhaus, rather than Baroque. When the models began to exit, the striking thing was how perfectly they suited their surroundings: even without the addition of Prada's Hollywood hot-list of closers (the presence of Adrien Brody, Gary Oldman and former Prada campaign model Willem Dafoe couldn't be overlooked), this show was cinematic. The models strode out in costume, the catwalk became their set.
What was the Prada production about? It was about the machinations of power. This Prada collection didn't even acknowledge the existence of casual attire: the closet we got was the off-duty man, in patterned silk robe or attired like a 1930s underwear model in boxers, shirt and knee-high socks. Even those outfits are a kind of uniform for the working man, as much as the reconfigured Wall Street pinstripes and fur-collared woollen coats Miuccia tricked out later, atop heavy rubber-coated brogues that seemed to collide a classic Oxford with a galosh. The clothes came out in multiples - a clutch of incredible trench-coats, a handful of covetable pinstripes, a perfect riff on the white shirt, in four movements. The uniformity of these garments forced you to seek out the variation between them. A similar thing went on in the casting: a wide range of models, aged sixteen through to sixty and including a pair of twins, that somehow all managed to look eerily alike. More cinema: that made you think of The Shining (that red rug had something to do with it too), the clothes conjured up the indistinguishable, dystopian office-drones of Gilliam's Brazil or the ball-busting Gordon Gekko of Wall Street.
The power of this collection, however, was no illusion. Nor was it a jokey, ironic pun on the eighties 'dress for success' ethos: this wasn't Miuccia Prada poking fun at power: she was playing the power-brokers at their own game. The staging - the 'grand gesture' - of this show reflects the might of Prada, the most influential of all the Italian fashion big-guns. The real power of this statement was that, despite the red carpet in set and casting alike, our attention was riveted on the clothes and them alone. Miuccia's powerful point? In this game, she's the only one who really counts.