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For every season Mrs Prada creates a "fashion bonkers" collection (this summer it was pyjama suits, hand-painted with fairies), there is another, replete with classic, and gorgeous, garments that can also be worn by mature women.

For autumn, she sent the Swiss lace mills into overdrive, to make this critically-acclaimed collection that evokes the 1950s glamour of Sophia Loren (S-shaped curves, scooped backs) yet maintains the slight strangeness of the Prada aesthetic (lace over cotton shirts; big, show-through pants).

Fashion-industry logic dictates that to offset heavier couture fabrics and bourgeois silhouettes, the ad campaign must star the youngest, thinnest models available. This apparently explains the influx of skinny, teenage Russian and Eastern European models in recent years, as fashionable, luxury brands such as Lanvin, YSL and Balmain push their production (and prices) ever further towards haute couture. It's something of a triumph, therefore, to see the 43-year-old Linda Evangelista replace the 23-year-old Russian Sasha Pivovarova, who featured in the past six Prada campaigns.

This is also an astute move on the brand's part when it is predominantly women long past their twenties who can actually afford to buy Prada clothes. You might also argue it takes a great model and a brilliant photographer to do these clothes justice. Notice the way Steven Meisel, fashion's pre-eminent image-maker, uses light to show the translucency of the material, simultaneously making her look demure and covered-up; the allusion to youth is further enforced by Evangelista's trademark "open-mouthed" expression. Look, too, at the incredible shadow play – a technique popularised by surrealist fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld in the 1930s, and employed by Meisel to inject these straightforward, commercial shots with the narrative drama that is his hallmark.

Verdict: hard times require super models