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Milan Fashion Week: Prada layers it on

January 19, 2011 |  6:58 am

Sometimes Miuccia Prada can be a tough riddle to unravel when it comes to inspiration, but this season's  theme was as easy to see as the three-page show invitation printed on see-through plastic, the striated, stacked and meticulously sliced finger sandwiches served to arriving guests and the double-decker runway framed in wrought-iron fencing designed by architect Rem Koolhaas.

We're talking layers here, people. Not the jacket-over-sweater-over-shirt kind of layers -- although that was certainly part of it -- but layers of personality, mood and time.

One layer that was definitely present was what might be considered old-school Prada (or, if you want to add another layer, "Prada doing Prada") -- boxy black three-button jackets, some with high, short notch lapels, others with fold-down collars in various sizes, as well as austere-looking black polo shirts.

Prada photo gallery

But that was just the top layer. Many of these jackets and polos were paired with knickers that ended just below the knee and styled with socks that reached about the same real estate, giving them that '20s look one might see on a street urchin chasing a hoop down the road with a stick. 

But the strongest layer came straight out of the 1970s -- a decade that has been getting a fair amount of attention on the runways of Milan this season (including the  Cavalli and Ferragamo shows we told you about earlier in the week).

Those collections looked like they could have been culled straight from a Bee Gees album cover, but Prada9 Prada's pieces seemed inspired by the '70s wardrobe items we block out until someone pulls out a family photo album (remember those?) -- bottle-green Lurex V-neck sweaters, boldly patterned polos (also in Lurex) and a range of two-tone suede jackets and overcoats, some with a deep contrasting-color V pattern at the yoke, others with a harlequin pattern.

In fact, if there was one cohesive visual element to the decade-spanning collection beyond the layers, it was the distinctive V shape -- especially if you think of the diamond shape of the harlequin pattern as esentially two back-to-back Vs -- which appeared in one form or another on sweaters, jackets, overcoats, and color-block zip-front track jackets.

The V shape moves in one direction before abruptly changing course (if you take the time to trace the letter out -- even if it's just with your finger, you'll see how you need to turn on a dime and move on a trajectory that's not really forward or backward or even at a right angle), and within the context of Prada's fall and winter collection, it seems to be sending a message.

Layers are simply that: split-level houses, Jekyll and Hyde personalities, '20s-era trousers with '70s-era tops. Disparate elements can be melded into something completely different. The real magic and artistry in anything (fashion and architecture being two good examples) are in knowing when and how to shift between those elements.


-- Adam Tschorn in Milan, Italy

More coverage of Milan Fashion Week

Photos: Looks from the Fall and Winter 2011 Prada men's runway collection shown on Jan. 16, 2011, during Milan Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For the Los Angeles Times