The girl on the street. It’s not the first image that comes to mind as you sit in the Versace show space in Milan’s Via Gesu, watching models’ buttocks swivel mesmerisingly in hyper-tight, hyper-short mini-dresses. Instead, you think of supermodels – this was the fashion house that invented them, after all.
There’s nothing girl-next-door about Versace. If you walked down the street in some of the house’s more outré clothes, you could easily be arrested for soliciting.
But the street was Donatella Versace’s inspiration this season. “The girl in the street, she’s my muse,” said Donatella. “The street is the new catwalk.” And while you may dismiss her claim as high fashion highfalutin’, the woman has a point. Women on the street don’t care about minimalism, deconstructionism, reductionism – indeed, most of the isms we fashion journalists peg to collections. They care about looking good. They care about looking glamorous. “Very glamorous. That’s me,” grinned Donatella, Cheshire cat-like, before the show. How right she is.
Hence, her spring/summer 2014 Versace collection was about polar opposites: the clothes women really wear, like leather jackets, jeans, t-shirts and casual men’s shirts; and the glamazon they want to be. Donatella, quite naturally, decided to fuse them together. She has no issue wearing seven-inch heels and skintight calfskin to lunch. Neither should anyone else. “This is a luxury world – you need to work them,” Donatella said. And by god, did she work it.
What all that resulted in was a whirlwind collection in the finest Versace tradition of exuberant excess. Versace is always most satisfying when it says “Basta” to good taste and propriety. Versace is about boldness, brashness, even a little crassness. That’s where the house gets its strength from.
Strong was the word for this season’s Versace woman, clad in leather and denim like an early Guns N’ Roses groupie. Fittingly, the rock-tour-inspired t-shirts dripping chain mail sleeves were inspired, Donatella said, by a picture of her with Axl Rose from the Nineties. You couldn’t make it up.
The silhouette was short, flaring into circle skirts of raffia woven with silk, swinging high on the thigh. Denim was embroidered with leather and sequins for cocktail dresses and tambourine-taut jeans, the whole lot slung over with Medusa-studded chains: apparently Donatella’s been spotting Cher around Via Gesu. They were kitsch, camp and enormously fun. There was a girl on the street element to Tod’s collection too, the first presented on the catwalk for an Italian house known for leather accessories and driving shoes.
The label’s CEO Diego Della Valle tapped Alessandra Facchinetti, briefly of Gucci and Valentino, to design the collection. But accessories still took centre stage, high-heeled sandals with Tod’s signature nubby sole. The clothes, mostly crisp shirt-dresses cinched with wide belts were fine but fairly nondescript. You long for Facchinetti to place a design stamp on Tod’s. She’s shown us the blank canvas. Let’s see what she does with it.