Gucci's fragrance before fashion detracts from rebellious outfits

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The Independent Online

Coco Chanel was among the first fashion designers to see the marketing potential in branded perfume. The income from hits such as Chanel No 5 bankrolled her couture operations. Last night, Gucci literally put fragrance ahead of fashion when it screened the new television advertisement for its latest scent before its catwalk show.

Directed by David Lynch, the ad stars three models who writhe around miming to Blondie's "Heart of Glass". Only after the clip was broadcast to the audience could the fashion show begin.

Given second billing, the brand's spring/summer 2008 show, which the designer, Frida Giannini, said was inspired by the rock portraiture of the Italian photographer Francesco Scavullo, did have many appealing moments. Short, draped dresses in sun yellow or printed with painterly black-and-white flowers were aimed at the starlet set. Lace-up patent shoes had killer heels and the giant round bags were aptly named Hysteria. There was a rebellious edge to narrow checked trouser suits or tiny black leather jackets cut snugly to the body.

Gucci is a massive global brand with a 101-year-old heritage in leather goods that still sells more handbags and shoes than almost any other luxury house. But its fashion collections proper do not set the agenda as they did under its former designer Tom Ford, who left in 2003. Otherwise, the punky jackets and pouf dresses wouldn't have been usurped by an ad.

The fashion insider's favourite label is Marni, the brainchild of designer Consuelo Castiglioni. It does not drastically alter its course every season, and yesterday's show was no exception. Its characteristic loose-fitting, A-line silhouette and artsy prints were perhaps updated a little with sporty-looking fabrics such as techno-gabardine, clear latex and patent canvas.

Where Marni whispers its sensual appeal, the Florentine designer Roberto Cavalli is less coy. Known for the glamour and brazen sexuality of his clothes, and his troubles with the tax authorities, Cavalli is a favourite of Victoria Beckham. But yesterday his talent got the better of him.

Eschewing short, tight and body-revealing swimwear as he is used to, instead Cavalli got romantic and said it with flowers. Blooms are everywhere this season in Milan but Cavalli's were the most sophisticated so far. Long, loose-fitting silk dresses decorated with giant tropical flowers or cloudlike coats made of feathers dyed to resemble petals managed to be sweet without cloying. He also picked up on the Seventies trend that emerged strongly at Prada earlier in the week.