What is tiny, risqué and synonymous with the 1980s? Not only the micro-minidresses that have dominated collections in Milan this week, but also the front-row guest that Donatella Versace flew in for her spring/summer show last night: Prince.
The reclusive megastar, a friend of both Versace and her late brother Gianni, apparently offered to provide Versace with a soundtrack to her catwalk show and play a private concert afterwards. Versace has plenty to celebrate. Earlier this month the brand's chief executive, Giancarlo Di Risio, announced that, after a period of debt when its glitzy image fell out of fashion's favour and Donatella Versace struggled to overcome a drug addiction, the label is back in the black, hitting a break-even target 18 months ahead of schedule.
Recent ready-to-wear collections have been critically acclaimed, the design of profitable accessories improved and the house has negotiated licensing deals for branded private jets and 7-star hotel resorts. Yesterday the company, which remains privately owned by Donatella, her brother Santo and her daughter Allegra Beck, also inaugurated its new catwalk theatre at the Teatro Excelsior in the centre of Milan.
Earlier in the day, Dsquared, a brand owned by another Italian fashion magnate, Diesel's Renzo Rosso, transformed their catwalk into a Capresian mise-en-scene: tanned lotharios lounged outside a pavement café, waiters hovered with flutes of Prosecco and Englebert Humperdinck warbled 'Quando'. Dsquared's designers, the Canadian twins Dan and Dean Caten, revel in cliché, and their spring/ summer collection was a pastiche of the privileged Eurotrash set, complete with preppy cuffed shorts slung with gilt-chain belts, Jermyn Street-style shirts and big, blow-dried hair. Their core product, though, is denim and sportswear and jeans were cut as Capri pants or tight-fitting minidresses. The theme taken by the anonymous design team at Sportmax was less clear. "The beach spirit is in vogue, but with an artistic outlook," gurgled the show programme, but where bold floral-printed shift dresses, striped trousers and sun hats that sprouted plastic flowers aimed for quirkiness, the effect was merely a mish-mash.
Nerdy, vintage-infused clothing is a style that can look appealing - most notably in the hands of Marc Jacobs - but this show reminded one of the sinking feeling of scanning rails at a jumble sale to find that only the duds remain.