Last season’s beautiful Gucci collection was a sartorial palate cleanser, one that freed the Gucci girl from her zeal for overstatement. But freedom is only genuine if you’ve got options. Thus, for spring, Frida Giannini returned to the banquet of conspicuous fashion. “This time I pushed the accelerator on provocation and irony,” she said before the show.


And push she did, but with control rather than wanton excess. Such an oxymoron makes perfect sense at Gucci, and resulted in a bold and appealing show. If it found the designer in her comfort zone — that steamy precipice between saucy lady and aggressive vamp — it’s one to which a lot of women rush, and in which Giannini holds court with ever more confidence and credibility. Her own look registered the mood: hair pulled into a classic chignon; LBD cut not from prim shantung, but from a thousand strips of leather fringe festooned for serious curvature.


Giannini called this collection “Sophisticated Seduction.” Certainly she drew from seductive references: the photographs of Guy Bourdin and David Bailey, the daring colors of YSL, the rich influences of Marrakech, Gucci’s equestrian heritage. But mostly she drew from the expectations of her customers, who like their chic with a little flash. What made that combination mostly successful here was that more often than not, Giannini chose her poison. When she went for color, she kept other embellishments to a minimum, save for bronze-toned belts. Hence, the smart, nonliteral interpretation of a riding look in jade, blue and violet, and a series of chic color-blocked dresses cut to show skin. Conversely, when she went to town with fringe and hardware, she worked in monotones of all black or desert tones, the better to flaunt the details of her skintight, handworked leathers, often held together with countless tiny golden grommets and finished with elaborate Berber-inspired embroideries.


The exception to the designer’s color-or-stuff rule came at night, when a series of vibrant-hued dresses, all intricate craftings of crystals, tassels, fringe and various metal embellishments, made for evening armor of the take-all-prisoners sort.

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