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Prada goes handbag heavy in bid to revive flagging fortunes at MFW


Feb 26, 2016

Prada's answer to stagnating sales was unveiled on Thursday with a handbag-heavy Fall-Winter collection that the company's executives hopes will spark a revival in the fashion heavyweight's flagging fortunes.

Miuccia Prada's latest offering had a post-War feel about it with sailor or nurse-style white caps abounding alongside cape-shaped coats and pencil skirts designed to emphasise the slender waists of more austere times.

Leather coats and jackets, which came with fur trimmings, tweed overcoats, argyle-patterned tights and elbow-touching woolly gloves also harked back to a less centrally-heated era.

Prada could do with this collection being a major hit after two consecutive years of stagnating sales and no sign of an end to the slowdown in China that is hitting it particularly hard.

Against that backdrop, it was perhaps significant that almost every model who strutted down the catwalk at Prada's Milan HQ Thursday was carrying, in a variety of ways, one of the company's pricey handbags, the accessory which more than any other has powered its growth over the years.

And in another telling sign of the times, two of those bags are to be made available to buy from Friday rather than being held back from release when the Fall/Winter collection goes on sale in four months time.

The move may seem insignificant to the wider world but it is being hailed as big news by fashion insiders who have billed it as the company's first tentative dip into "see now, buy now".

The trend has already been embraced by Burberry and Tom Ford. If it takes off, it is seen as having the potential to completely transform the way upmarket designer clothes are produced and marketed.

Initial reaction to the Prada show was generally positive with Women's Wear Daily calling it "spectacular and provocative." But there was also a whiff of faint praise about some reviews, which sometimes can amount to coded criticism in the fashion world.

The Daily Telegraph said the collection was "beautiful in many parts" while its British rival The Guardian noted that "compelling thought it is, this Prada message is not new."

Fendi's furry friends

Elsewhere on day two of Milan fashion week, Karl Lagerfeld produced a very fluid, wavy collection for Fendi with star American model and TV star Kendall Jenner providing a touch of celebrity glamour.

Thigh-high boots in an array of colours provided the eye-catching highlight and even they had a ruffled look about them. Furs abounded, as so often with Fendi. But here they were jazzed up with vibrant dashes of colour. The collection also drew inspiration from Japan, generally in its fluidity and particularly in the form of the flowers on a baby doll dress that were modelled on an 18th-century Japanese wallpaper print.

But the nod to Japan which delighted Fendi fans the most was the presence of Piro-chan and her male counterpart Bug-kun -- mascots modelled on the furry handbag charms which have become cult items in Japan, a key market for the Rome-based house.

Costume National designer Ennio Capasa meanwhile celebrated 30 years with the brand with a collection that featured much asymmetry and had a very deconstructed feel in keeping with two of the women who inspired it: Icelandic singer Bjork and Yoko Ono.

And Massimo Giorgetti's reinvention of the Emilio Pucci house style continued with another sporty collection for the LVMH-owned group. Zipped knitwear and leggings that could have passed for ski pants set the tone. (Angus Mackinnon, AFP)

Photos: AFP