LONDON’S HIGH ROLLER

LONDON — Antonio Berardi hit the Las Vegas strip for spring and came away with a jackpot. Berardi, 28, has been courted by everyone from Chloe to LVMH and eyed by his peers from Milan to New York. His fans, and they are legion, are desperate for him to catapult into the big leagues. His critics — and they’re many, too — claim he does nothing but recycle Galliano. While there’s still a shade of truth in that, it’s clear that Berardi is establishing his own look, which is definitely gaining influence.
He found a backer this spring, Givuesse of Italy, and is beginning to build a serious business, with sales last season of $1 million. For fall, he produced 30 of his leather suits for the British market to retail at $4,000 each, and they blew out of the stores. With this, his fifth show, he’s clearly reveling in his solid financing — almost too much so.
The 140-piece collection, more than twice as big as last season’s, was shown on Naomi, Kate, Helena, Stella and Honor, all looking sexier than ever. Berardi was like a kid in a candy store, sending out endless confections, which lost some of their impact in their repetition.
He could do with a little restraint. But the first two-thirds of his show was as good as any of Fashion Week. The designer plumbed his Sicilian roots — managing to do so in a way that traveled from Italy to Nevada. As the show started, the soundtrack thumped and the lights went up to reveal a huge BERARDI sign and a projected image of the American desert. Naomi Campbell came out wearing a white bobbin lace dress that took 14 women 3 1/2 months to make. Then came sexy matador-style suits; beautiful sheer crochet dresses; swirly tango dresses and skirts in windowpane checks, and toweling dresses perfect for Miami Beach. He also showed a new line of Fifties-style underwear with corsets, garters and bras ideal for a Varga girl. What’s clear is that Berardi revels in women, and his growing legion of fans appreciates it.
Demi Moore, sitting in the front row wearing Clements Ribeiro, said, as a sexy white knit look walked by, “That’s a fabulous dress.” Berardi has said that what drives him is a quest for excellence, and he believes he’s getting better at it all the time. That’s true. Equally true is that he’s building a business while he’s at it.
PEOPLE CORPORATION: It’s time to dig out those vintage Sprouses. Roland Mouret, designer of the People Corporation, has made his five-year-old line’s reputation for picking up on the current fashion moment — and that’s clearly the Stephen Sprouse style. For spring, he showed cotton sportswear with an edge: side-slit tops with shorts; wide pants; crisp jackets with double-belted skirts; slinky jersey slit dresses, and layered looks. They’re styles that have been seen all over the London runways this season, and ones that are bound to pop up in the weeks ahead. But People Corp. gave them a London twist — at a price that its club-going fans can afford.

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