Old guard rallies to Versace's well-worn themes

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The Independent Online

Fashion Editor

Even Gianni Versace could not muster more than a handful of bona fide supermodels for his Milan show yesterday. Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Carla Bruni, Karen Mulder and Kate Moss are the last of the old guard.

Outside Versace's catwalk venue, teenagers gathered hoping for a model sighting. And they were duly rewarded as the new model army who have been dominating the catwalk this week filed by: the Canadian Michelle Hicks, the Scottish Harper's Bazaar covergirl Kirsty Hume and the Americans Trish Goff and Caroline Murphy.

Versace may have a new troupe of fresh faces to show his clothes, but he seems to have run out of ideas. Underwear as outerwear was an old theme revisited. This time the underslips were made of candy coloured satin with unsophisticated clashes of synthetic coloured violet or pistachio green lace. The military fixation continued with heavy combat pockets over the breasts of chiffon bodices. This Versace show was more Divine Brown than Liz Hurley.

Meanwhile Miuccia Prada, the designer who has taken a luxury label to cult status, needed only look around the audience at her show yesterday to know that she has her finger on the pulse.

The spring/summer granny jacket and skirt suits, and the loose, basket- weave print nylon trousers were everywhere. The only problem is, the clothes have such a distinctive trademark, they look instantly dated.

But this Prada hysteria is a sign of the label's far-reaching influence. It will not just be worn by those in the know, but also seen again in the shows of other designers from London to New York (where the label's younger line, Miu Miu will be at the end of the month).

After yesterday's collection for autumn/winter '96, the uninitiated could have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. For here were simple clothes that might not look so special if you did not know the label inside them.

The use of late Sixties, early Seventies bathroom tile prints in brown and orange has continued for next winter, as have the straight-legged trousers and matt nylon nurse dresses. The best of the collection came at the end with a series of delicate chiffon dresses for evening in pale greens and lilac with fine diamante beading.