By  on February 29, 2008

Riccardo Tisci worked Latin American references into his collection for Givenchy, while Alessandra Facchinetti went for a youthful update on the ladylike house classics at Valentino.

Givenchy: Riccardo Tisci's show invitation featured a great big dragonfly — a clue, perhaps? The symbolic interpretations are endless, but there's an old wives' tale that dragonflies indicate good news. Here, it was most apt. Fall proved to be a major step forward for the designer, commercially viable and — dare we say it — practically pretension-free. Tisci tossed aside the cerebral stuff and opted for an inspiration with far more feeling: Latin American elegance and sensualidad, inspired by his trips to the area over the past few years.

Tisci's Hispanic takes glanced back — way back — to old-world conquistador style. He tipped his sombrero to Cortés and company with the kickoff looks — models draped in miles and piles of gold-chain bounty. Then the olé references, set to catchy Brazilian favela beats, came fast and furious — toreador-style jackets with rounded shoulders, sexy off-the-shoulder gypsy blouses, ample ruffled and pleated frills for the most exuberant flamenco gals — all of it done up with lots of embellishments: traditional passementerie, black lace and Moorish-jewel decorations. Even those Catholic missionaries got a nod or two, with crucifix motifs and Sacred Heart emblems, the latter used sparingly on a simple LBD. (The designer noted postshow that he collects rosaries.) Fortunately, Tisci avoided the pitfall of allowing his theme to get out of hand (except for those glossy leggings and droopy gauchos) and delivered the kind of strong, focused collection everyone has been waiting for.

Valentino: Successor debut collections have become as common in fashion as pre-this and pre-that. On Thursday, it was Alessandra Facchinetti's turn, again, to show her first major work for an iconic house. With Giancarlo Giammetti sitting in the celebrity section, along with Winona Ryder and Rebecca Romijn, Facchinetti presented a fall Valentino show that on many levels worked well. It introduced an aura of modernity that updated the house image without trampling on it; for example, the hair and makeup were taken down a notch or 12, the run of show was less formal than with Valentino himself at the helm (no need to show every imaginable suit) — and many of the clothes swung younger than before without looking ridiculous. There were lovely coats and dresses, and Facchinetti clearly made an effort to incorporate some signature Valentino moves: a crisp white Sixties-ish coat; a flash of red in a siren gown. This means that, come fall, current customers, and younger types, too, should they happen by, will be able to walk into a Valentino boutique and find something to wear.On the down side, the designer's a-little-of-this/a-little-of-that approach, heightened by the absence of a statement shoe, played more like a parade of random ladylike clothes than a powerful, cohesive collection. Despite a couple of recurring motifs — ribbon-swirl rosettes; pleat-front egg skirts that flatter no one — Facchinetti failed to offer a clear message for the season, let alone even a glimmer of her long-term vision. Which may mean she's yet to develop one, which is understandable. The first season for any designer new to an established house is typically transitional. But the clock is ticking.


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