In the last few seasons Milan has become a tale of contrasts: this week we have seen Alessandro Michele at Gucci reworking the past in a maximalist key, while Miuccia Prada stripped down things in search of a minimalist future.
Prada's S/S 17 collection opened indeed with a girl in a scholarly black knee-length skirt and a black tank. The model's attire set the mood for the rest of a collection that was based on ordinary pieces such as trench coats, knitted cardigans, wrap skirts, belted plaid silky bomber jackets, black polo neck sweaters and '40s high-waisted briefs.
At times there were tops and skirts reminiscent of '60s flight attendant/sci-fi film space uniforms, references that maybe hinted at a futuristic dystopia, a mood evoked also by the ominous soundtrack that also featured Julia Kent's "Tempelhof".
This uniformed army of women was clad in a clean-cut wardrobe that could be described as a remixed and updated version of Prada's '90s collections.
Graphic prints in contrasting colours evoked a ‘70s palette maybe borrowed from interior design, while textures and surfaces were reminiscent of automotive fabrics employed around the same decade. The prints provided variation or created a discordant note in some of the uniforms.
Searching for a new elegance, Miuccia Prada also included in the collection Mandarin-collared silk pajamas, some of them in contrasting prints, others in muted colours.
Then she added decadent marabou stoles, that represented a moment of extravagance and fantasy in an otherwise dark world. She trimmed bottoms and shirt cuffs with marabou feathers or used them as decorative elements down the length of a skirt or erupting from bags.
Accessories included giant pendants and medallions and envelope bags that the models carried as if they were folders (work? homework? Who knows).
On the industrial aluminum flooring bejewelled kitten heels contrasted with thick molded rubber sandals.
The latter had the consistency and texture of interior design pieces that Miuccia has probably got in her personal collections or she admired at Milan's Triennale.
The sandals came indeed in pink, orange, yellow, brown and blue, a palette reminiscent at times of Vico Magistretti's lamps or Joe Colombo's chairs (mind you, there were also ugly chic fur versions of the same sandals, but they verged more on the ugly ridiculous side...).
The highlight of the presentation was a film entitled "Past Forward" and shot by David O. Russell, flicking on the multiple screens during the runway.
The 18-minute film - that will be premiered later on this year in Los Angeles - is a sort of silent movie on the lives of modern women and features three female protagonists engaged in simple and repetitive acts like undressing, rummaging through letters and going up an escalator in a terminal.
Overjoyed by the film, a thankful Miuccia ventured down the runway applauding Russell and the film's actors - Sinqua Walls, Kuoth Wiel and Jack Huston.
Yet there was something extremely perverse about this collection that nobody really grasped and to discover it you will have to refer to the programme at the Milan-based Fondazione Prada, the modern art exhibition space owned by Miuccia and her husband Patrizio Bertelli on the outskirts of Milan.
Some of the picture from Colla's archive accompanying the event on Prada's site show thousands of marionettes standing still, their basic wooden bodies covered in multi-coloured scraps of fabrics (they are usually dressed in sumptuous costumes during Colla's shows).
It is somehow uncanny but some of the attires of marionettes (such as the flowered shorts or the patchworked tabard) in the pictures call to mind a couple of Prada's S/S 17 looks. A terrific coincidence or just Miuccia telling us that, despite the global luxury spending slump and fall in sales at Prada, she's still the satanic puppet master of fashion?