By  on February 21, 2008

Frida Giannini's fall Gucci collection was intended to be a bohemian-rock 'n' roll hybrid. And there definitely was loads going on — as these tight, be-ringed pants, tucked into boots and shown with a dramatic fluffy jacket and shiny necklace, illustrate. Over-the-top or not, one thing isn't in doubt: Giannini's looks are big winners at retail.

Two very different visions of style and luxury came courtesy of Gucci's Frida Giannini and Marni's Consuelo Castiglioni. While Giannini went for broke with splashy Seventies redux, Castiglioni opted for understatement with high-sheen fabrics and romantic ruffles.

Gucci: Talk about fascinating. By objective standards, Frida Giannini's still-young tenure at Gucci is a wild success. Her numbers are gaudier than Tom Ford's ever were, with not only the accessories fueling the frenzy, but the clothes, as well. Business is booming around the world, exploding in Asia-Pacific, Russia and the Middle East, and as for the U.S., adjusting for currency, sales leapt 14.7 percent last year.

That mind-boggling litany of facts made sitting at the show Giannini staged on Wednesday night a confounding experience because it made one rethink one's own judgments. What is luxury? What is chic? What should high-end fashion look like? Quite simply, Giannini's collection didn't fit easily into standard notions of any of the above. Not a slam, but an observation. It was overwrought, garish, at times derivative of her Gucci Group colleague Nicolas Ghesquière, and though beautifully crafted, didn't look at all rich from the runway, but more like a fun, contemporary romp in which a girl can indulge briefly and then move on. Certainly not a collection in which to sink serious money. But the numbers don't lie, so who's not getting it here?

Giannini called the show Gucci Boho, and said she wanted to create a bohemian-rock 'n' roll hybrid with a "profound sense of rich decadence," and with elements of the Twenties and more obviously, the Seventies. She opened with a series of racy jackets over tight pants tucked into boots, everything fringed, furred, passementeried and with more metal work than a periodic table. Not a bad look, but handled with no particular deftness. Similarly her dresses, sexy little drop-waist numbers in evocative, earthy prints, looked plenty appealing at first glance, but too often these also got the kitchen-sink treatment with embroideries, epaulets, belts, studs and dangling charms.

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