Miuccia Prada's vast Via Fogazzaro space was laid out like a military or equestrian parade ground with tiered banks of red, painted seating, and painted red poles only missing the flags of The Palio.
The pageant-like ambience was heightened by the battalion of 55 models who marched in strict formation round the square, their eyes neither left nor right, their wedge heels or spikes echoing on the wooden, planked floor. The mood was esoteric, exotic, extreme, but always with an edgy, exciting elegance, as Prada re-imagined the ages and attitudes of global woman.
White cotton corsets were worn outside, in the manner of an Obi, tightly cinched with narrow belts. Tweedy jackets, often with quilted patches, and accessorised with an across-the-body bag similar to a hunting or fishing bag, lent a vaguely town-and-country air; a walk in the park or a walk on the wild side. Glittery, gold, brocade jackets were worn with the sleeves pushed up to reveal knitted armlets, and swingy souk-style capes were hooded or hemmed with fur.
The glitter theme extended to wispy shifts, scattered with jewelled trinkets. The woodsy colour palette of browns, russet, aubergine and greens was juxtaposed with clashing bright multi-prints for big skirts, below the knee, but enough to show the patterned tights or fancy socks.
The hair was deconstructed 30's, waved then flattened, and topped with a white cotton. vaguely nautical, sailor-boys hat. Round the world in 55 Prada outfits.
After the precision and reined-in esoterica of Miuccia Prada, we landed on Planet Moschino, where Jeremy Scott had forsaken cartoon and pop iconography for The Past; the 1490's to be exact, when one dark Mardi Gras night in Florence, a band of puritanical Domenicans had run riot, ransacking the city and hurling paintings, books, sculpture, mirrors, clothing - anything of beauty onto a vast bonfire.
The set resembled the aftermath of the terrible conflagration: broken chandeliers, smashed mirrors, charred manuscripts, burnt-out pianos, a jumble of glasses and gilded frames, their canvasses ripped out were heaped up like an auction for a stately pile fallen on hard times. The catwalk, laid with Oriental rugs, encircled the destruction, ringed by Baroque chaises and chintzy armchairs for Frowers.
"From anguish and ashes something new always arises," observed Scott. His phoenixes however were a gang of Biker Chicks, in deconstructed versions of 'The Perfecto', the leather jacket worn by Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones. This was, in Scott's words, hardcore glamour for a hard hard world. Thus the black leather bustiers, pelmet skirts and bra-dresses, lashed with silver chains and assorted biker skull-and-crossbones hardware, were dressed up with taffeta bustles, bows and trains in jewel colours.
The long ago Bonfire of the Vanities was envisaged in a ball gown made from a complete chandelier; skinny dresses incorporating shards of smashed, gilded mirrors; a column gown incorporating the innards of a brutalised grand piano; and series of charred and burnt crinolines and prom-frocks, very vintage Hollywood, which had integrated smoke machines within their skirts, whooshing out clouds of smoke as the girls sashayed past.
And of course, there had to be a joke: a pack of 20 Moschino iPhone cases bearing the message 'Fashion Kills', along with cigarette carton evening bags, and burn-print Moschino T-shirts, designed for the Fashion Addict. Smokin' Hot.
Berlin, Bauhaus and bold, bold bold was the theme behind MaxMara's Brave New World of hyper-femininity, inspired by artistic and scientific icons of the early part of the last century. Models descended steps in an industrial scaffolding installation at the back of the catwalk in signature MaxMara coats over boiler-suits and skimpy leotard-style bodies. But, oh what coats! Yes, there was the cosy camel we know of old but it was somewhat shouldered aside by slouchy robe-coats and great-coats in brilliant-hued 'felt-tip pen' stripes, oft customized with oversized fur collars.
If it were possible to time travel, designer Luisa Beccaria would carry the passport. Her A/W collection, designed with daughter Lucilla, had all the grace and sumptuous charm of Renaissance gowns but was suffused with touches of modernity, such as the slightly undone plaited hairstyles that models like to do for themselves, or the modernist, chequerboard short-sleeve sweaters worn over floral chiffon, long-sleeve dresses.
Peacock blue from pale to intense was the keynote colour, along with jewel tones of teal and crimson, and a soft blush-like old rose. Lush velvets were sprinkled with intricate floral embroideries and beading. And velvet was also used for the pretty corsets, cinched over milkmaid blouses and soft cashmere or angora knits. Lace was swooshed into fabulous ball gowns that were a marvellously modest, but ultra-feminine antidote to the see-through, barely-there, flesh-fest creations that so often dominate the red carpet.