Miuccia: the metal guru

Further proof, if ever we needed it, that where Miuccia Prada leads, the rest of the fash pack follows. There were precious metals across the catwalks for autumn, in homage to Prada's spring/ summer collection, which featured knowingly rumpled gold-jacquard skirts, bra-tops and drawstring cropped jackets.

"It's primitive," she told Style.com last season, "going back to what counts." Her metallics recalled bronze-age tribalistic simplicity – a theme also referenced in the fertility goddess caryatids that held up the high heels at Dior for spring.

Prada's return to atavistic hues was echoed by the form of the clothes, which were elegant but casual and relaxed; creased, in fact.

This season's golds and silvers have a different inspiration. If Mrs P's vision came from the simple life, John Galliano favoured a more highly wrought form of ornamentation. His autumn show featured models styled as Russian matryoshka dolls, draped in sumptuous finery, while Dolce & Gabbana featured lamé dresses decorated with sophisticated ruffles, exaggerated shoulders and carefully pintucked tailoring. It may have been anything but artless, but it was elegant nonetheless. Galliano gave us similar golds at Dior, where gowns were elaborately pleated, and even the minimalist metallic shifts at Calvin Klein were asymmetrical and cut into.

But these new metallics are not over-the-top, although they are expertly crafted by fashion's alchemists into complex good taste. They echo the casual shopper's ambivalent feelings toward conspicuous consumption right now: buy less, pay more and show it off.