There has been a mercurial sense to Milan fashion week so far this season; the long-standing home to established brands known for their rigidity has suddenly seen them shifting and changing with a new-found verve. The most immediate example of this hot-stepping is Gucci, at which Alessandro Michele’s third womenswear collection, shown on 23 September, confirmed that he has ushered in a new era. Michele was officially appointed only in January so a change of pace is understandable, but it’s also happened at labels where there’s been no obvious change in personnel. Versace is a case in point: Donatella Versace’s vision of a modern woman was actually just that, and her customer could be identified immediately.
The same could not be said of the Roberto Cavalli customer next season. On 26 September, the first collection for the brand from former Emilio Pucci creative director Peter Dundas was shown. You can see why Dundas got the job. At LVMH-owned Pucci he carved out a niche creating sexy, body-skimming dresses that were deeply respectful of the house codes.
Add to that the fact that he already has a three-year stint at Roberto Cavalli on his extensive CV – which also includes two years as creative director of Emanuel Ungaro and stints with Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix – and the show could be seen as something of a homecoming for the Norwegian designer. Suitably the champagne was flowing before the first model stepped on to the catwalk. The content of those fluted glasses, though, was the only things that fizzed, as the collection which attempted to realign the house’s established codes with the tastes of a modern shopper fell rather flat.
So what will the young, and young at heart, be wearing to dance the night away next summer? Well, if Dundas has his way she’ll be flashing the flesh in second-skin leather minidresses, slashed down the side and trimmed with flat, swaggy bows. Those flounces and ruches were straight out of the Eighties, a decade which is being picked over once again. But the designers who do it best – such as JW Anderson in London– do so with a knowing wink, acknowledging quite what an audacious proposition it is.
But there seemed to be nothing humorous about this, although they are certainly designs that the wearer will have fun in. Dundas was a little too fond of Sixties and Seventies references during his time at Pucci, so it’s good that he has moved on in this new role. But on occasion – namely a peach lace-fronted off-the-shoulder minidress – it seemed that he had focused solely on the party pages of Tatler and issues of World of Interiors (laden as the latter was with swagged curtains and bowed tiebacks) from that era.
The Cavalli customer is particularly hard to pinpoint in London, where scruff or sophisticate are the two overriding aesthetics, but she certainly exists somewhere. She’s probably shopping at Balmain and Saint Laurent. And some Insta-starlet will no doubt be trussed up in that peach frock in no time. Whether she’d make it on to the pages of Tatler remains to be seen.
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