Prada and D&G bring bright yellows and pretty florals to the catwalk as the fashion world moves to Italy

Suspense isn't something you get with every catwalk show, but in the minutes before Miuccia Prada reveals her latest vision the air practically crackles with it. Season after season she presents something fresh and unexpected, and one of the big surprises of yesterday's spring/summer 2011 show in Milan included a banana motif that couldn't be further from the retro Mad Men look she created for autumn/winter.

The designer, who was wearing earrings shaped like bananas, said that she wanted the collection to be "fun, bold, brave and bright" and "between minimal and baroque". This concept manifested itself in clothes that focused on simple shapes taken from her menswear collection, delivered in bright block colours, stripes and tropical patterns, as well as black. The first looks to come out included a boxy orange shift dress with dropped shoulders and wide arms, and pencil skirts and jackets in shades of traffic cone orange, Yves Klein blue, and grass green. Fitted, strapless, striped dresses with frilled skirts starting at the mid-thigh followed, in combinations of orange, green, black, red and hot pink, some with an unusual print featuring monkeys entwined with gold baroque swirls.

As the show progressed, a tropical, carnivalesque theme intensified with boxy banana-print shirts, wide sombrero-style stripy hats and South American-looking embroidery – all delivered with a Prada twist that made it look modern and original. There was an Argentinean air to the models' hair, which was slicked back into two buns, and to strappy Tango shoes in orange and black. Other shoes included brothel creeper brogues with coloured soles and Mary Jane wedges.

While interpreting Miuccia Prada's shows can be like unravelling a particularly intriguing mystery, at D&G, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana like to go to town on an idea, leaving us in no doubt what has inspired them. This time the theme was a garden party and the air was filled with fragrance, the catwalk was decorated with a giant trellis covered in plants, and the invitations came with a packet of seeds attached. Dolce and Gabbana billed the theme as a whole day in the garden, beginning early in the morning, followed by a picnic and a cocktail party, and the outfits were created to match. The first looks featured canvas dungarees, wide cropped trousers, hessian shorts, knickerbockers and aprons, in natural beige, red and white Vichy pattern and a floral silk, as well as dresses and jumpsuits in floral prints made up of roses, hydrangeas, freesias, violets and mimosas. Accessories came in the form of silk floral headscarves, welly-like wedge boots in red or green, wedge espadrilles and big canvas bags.

As the show progressed, the clothes lost the nod to function and became prettier and more playful, with a cream and red crochet skater dress, cream lace tunic top and skirt and small silk shorts. The finale consisted of dreamy, flower-printed chiffon maxidresses featuring Seventies-inspired details with frills around the bust and tiers at the hem.