One typically knows what to expect at an Alberta Ferretti show: something along the lines of ethereal goddess dresses often of the Grecian variety. So it was a refreshing surprise to see her signatures thoroughly diversified for spring, where Ferretti worked an urban jungle motif with an emphasis on African references.

“To me, a simple shape and easy way is feminine and modern” explained the designer backstage before the show, noting that the collection was full of “dresses like T-shirts.” Perhaps something was lost in translation because there was nothing so simple or casual in sight. But if it was a spirit of ease she sought to capture, the slipdresses and languid skirts combined relatively simple silhouettes cut from light-as-air fabrics, yet belied intense craftsmanship that was quite remarkable. Geometric silk fragments were embroidered onto sheer tulle to create graphic patterns that resembled Zulu markings, and full dresses were constructed out of crocheted beads. One was done in color-blocked beaded mesh on top with an exquisitely woven red skirt. A floral wood block print appeared on draped dresses and safari blouses, just one example of the expanded daywear range that also included silk tunics worn over flared pants.

The tribal influences made for a colorful evening lineup, with wispy dresses done in pink, yellow and aqua blue. Yet for all the vivid brights, the finale of gorgeous gowns draped from mesh jet beads and lean, languid skirts proved that black is an ever powerful thing.

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