'It's about observing antiquity,' Miuccia Prada said backstage at her spring 2015 show, 'but about what makes sense today.'
To that end, she and her team sourced and reproduced more than 30 different antique brocade fabrics that were patch-worked onto blanket coats, inlaid along seams on boxy jackets, blouses, and leather dirndl skirts in a collection that used the beauty of the drab to create a new modern glamour. Some of the processes took a whole day just to create one metre of fabric.
Sober sheath dresses made in raw silk and in leather were decorated with contrast stitching along seams and came with exaggerated, pointed collars seemingly plucked from Prada's own archive. Others had Tudor-style square yokes that were panelled with high-backed, piecrust collars in white gauze. Towards the end of the show, these came in simple linen and what looked like cheesecloth, like toile cut-outs, the only concession to eveningwear a bright, sparkling sequinned collar.
'I was thinking about the ability of the artisan,' Prada said. 'Of the sort of craftsmanship, not only in fabric but in furniture too, that will be lost. Now we work in a way that is the opposite to what was possible before.'
And so, the faded grandeur of those fabrics - which spanned the salvage gamut from chintzy to Chinoiserie via your nan's sofa and curtains - was undercut by what Prada termed a 'tough modernity'. This took the shape of a seventies sensibility in severe cuts and creaky, shiny leather, as well as tank tops in bright yellow and grass green that were worn with deliberately frumpy blouses.
While that period is certainly emerging as a trend for spring, it isn't likely that that's why Prada lighted upon the era. Rather, as an extension of her vision for menswear this season, she was interested in basics - not white T-shirts but clothing to which construction, rather than any other froth or adornment, is fundamental to its value and aesthetic. Those basics met what she described as 'decadence' in the brocades.
In updating historic fabrics such as these for a latter-day customer, Miuccia Prada has answered her own question about the future of the artisanal in fashion - in a mechanised industry, it's a state of mind and imagination, a way of applying uniqueness in a world where everything is mass-produced. That is pretty much what Prada stands for, after all.