Prada Fall 2011 Review

Prada Fall 2011 runway

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Prada Fall 2011 collection

SHOW: Prada (See the full runway collection.)

HAIR: Guido Paulo

MAKEUP: Pat McGrath

ACCESSORIES: Chunky bags and heels in block colors

OVERALL TAKEAWAY: Space-age Great Gatsby heroine reinvents luxury textures

At the best of times, going to a Prada show is like a particularly tricky tussle with an arithmetic exam: Even when you take into account unknown variables, show your working behind every equation, and eschew a calculator with confidence, you're never quite sure your answers are right.

Nevertheless, you get extra marks for showing your method—and Miuccia Prada always seems to leave her show purposefully blank, eager to hear your impressions of the garment you just saw. You'll never get anything as hackneyed as a theme with Miuccia. We're talking conceptual fashion here.

Those intellectual games also lead to her styling choices: In this case, streamlined chin-strapped stocking-caps in wool jersey that are reminiscent of Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges's giant leap into space a full four years ahead of Neil Armstrong. Their influence was evident in the dominant shape—a drop-waist shift dress or roomy coat in double-face wool, organza, tufted fur, or paillettes. Never below the knee, and no pants, ever.

Backstage, Mrs. Prada stated she was making a point about textures. She said they were the textures women loved and desired, and that she wanted to shake them up a bit. That's why we got a giant python opera coat with shag-pile lapels. It was the sickest thing on the Milan catwalks and will instantly become an object of desire for women everywhere.

That was the really interesting thing about this collection. Well, one of them. You get the feeling Miuccia Prada has more ideas at her fingertips than the rest of Milan put together. Certainly, despite all the retro references, this show didn't feel like anything we've ever seen before. In 2011—and three weeks into the fashion month—that's quite an achievement.