Rhinestones rule on Milan catwalk

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The Independent Online

The battle to capture the red carpet commenced in Milan yesterday. Roberto Cavalli, presenting his spring/ summer 2004 collection, went once more unto the breach with rhinestones blazing. Despite being the more famous name, Versace - showing later in the day - will have watched the proceedings with interest.

Milan fashion week has so far seen major brands such as Prada and Gucci sticking to the hallmark looks for which they have become famous. So it was no surprise to see Cavalli, the most brazen of the Italian purveyors of unashamed glitz, staying true to form.

Even Cher, whom he named as the muse for his collection, might balk at some of the outfits on his Perspex runway. But while many outfits were pure camp, there were also beautiful bias-cut chiffon dresses and sweet satin shirt dresses to prove there is substance to his style.

Cavalli's fashion chimes with an overall mood emerging from collections shown this week. A conservative definition of femininity has dominated, sometimes to the point of cliché. Floral prints, light chiffon dresses and a silhouette borrowed from the pre-feminist Fifties are just a few of the trends making repeated appearances.

It is unsurprising that Milanese fashion brands are playing safe. The effects of Sars, the conflict in Iraq and a strengthening euro have all contributed to a deflated market for luxury goods.