Karl Lagerfeld, the most outspoken man in fashion, issued a statement of intent at his Fendi show in Milan: “Fendi is fur! Fur is Fendi!”
The call to arms, in an inflammatory illustration left on seats either side of an impressively long catwalk, left the audience in no doubt about what to expect. Mink and fox in a palette of natural tones – with highlights of electric blue, pink and orange – appeared on outerwear and separates, the arms of sunglasses, shoes with sculpted heels and even bags.
Although fur remains contentious – with designers such as Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney refusing to use it – it is a luxurious tradition for many of Italy's most opulent labels. And Fendi, part of the LVMH stable, which saw profits rise 19 per cent to €28.1bn (£24bn) in 2012, has a vast client base among the super-rich of Russia and emerging markets for whom fur poses no ethical problem.
At the shows we have seen a continuation, which can be taken as confirmation, of the trends that emerged from the New York and London collections. Highlights of orange and midnight; cape backs and sleeves; a focus on structured shoulders (be they soft and rounded or more pointed pagodas); latex, rubber and patent leather; and feather-like ruffles, frills and fringing have all been further ticked off the lists of the assembled editors and buyers. But, as is often the case, Miuccia Prada's vision of a woman interrupted the staccato rhythm. The coats – cut from luxuriously thick wool and belted – with exaggerated, voluminous folds on the cuffs brought us a point of focus so far not seen. A sombre palette of grey, black and brown was shot through with classically awkward Prada colours such as tomato red and mustard yellow. Ribbed panels in contrast colours were used to rein in the waists of jackets, powder blue gingham re-appeared and was twinned by a pink version, while the setting featured projections of shadowy views.
The collection was Mrs Prada's vision of "raw elegance", communicated through heavy black on black beaded embellishment which was draped and paneled to create a stepped, assymetric hemline on full skirts.
There was a sexiness to the clothes too – thanks to chain-link beading echoing that projected on the walls – snaking down slinky black dresses, leather separates and that womanly silhouette. But by veering more towards the déshabillé, Prada's ideal is clearly of a more romantic variety. "Generally, the feeling is it is old-fashioned to look romantic," said Prada, once again proving that there are rewards for those who seek to go against the grain.