With their bangs bluntly razored an inch beneath the hairline,eyebrows bleached and cheekbones lit like knives, the models in theVersace show looked like the kind of girls you find at ease in anameless afterhours club — or in an Oscar-nominated performance byRooney Mara. And that was just from the neck up. Below, the clothes wereall gothic drama and underground kink, as Donatella Versace turned onthe dark for fall. Not even her high glamour gloss of crystals andarticulated curves (both here in spades) could file down the edge.

Tosee the designer depart from the levity and exacting polish of herrecent collections, not to mention the Versace homage that’s beenhappening in fashion at large, was a good feeling. The show opened withtwo black velvet dresses — one covered up, one bare — both embroideredwith leather Byzantine crosses, a recurring motif. Versace played it big— blaring and bejeweled smack in the middle of a corset — and small,crafting a breastplate out of laser cut black on a fitted and flaredmoto jacket that was sleekly executed. But things got silly where thecrosses were used as colorful prints, which segued to letters thatspelled V-E-R-S-A-C-E all over dresses. Such gothic glitz relates to thehouse vernacular for sure, but shown so blatantly it bore the look of asecondary collection, not because it looked cheap, but too flagrant.Giant letter-block prints don’t play well on designer turf.

Moredaring, more sex-charged and more modern was the use of chainmail, whichsignaled a whiff of savage crusader that also turned up on dressestraced with coarse, laced seams around the bodice. It was relativelymodest as a T-shape along the shoulders of loose shift dresses, andchicly illicit on side panels of clingy dresses, including a finale ofsilver columns veiled in open, metal mesh.

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