OBERTO CAVALLI MIXED THE FRISKY AND THE LESS-RISKY….AND STRENESSE BROUGHT BACK THE EIGHTIES, JAPANESE-STYLE.

Marni: Ten years ago this month Nirvana’s first hit album, “Nevermind,” went triple platinum, an anniversary Consuelo Castiglioni celebrated on the runway on Monday morning: Her fall collection was an ode to grunge. But unlike those Northwestern stage-divers of yore or their smeary-eyed, staggering muse, Courtney Love, Castiglioni doesn’t go for the rough stuff. Her Marni-fied send-up was a spiffy, prissy version of the look. Cute chiffon dresses peeked out from under crumpled tweed coats. Suede jackets in dusty faded hues topped soft, washed cropped pants and, in the interest of verite, Castiglioni finished off the lot with those once-ubiquitous floppy knit hats. Though these references, and her more funky Seventies stuff, owed thanks to Marc Jacobs, there has always been a certain pauvre quality to the Marni look, and Castiglioni was perfectly at home traipsing along that old Portland-Seattle-San Francisco axis.
At the same time, Consuelo’s muse has never come across as disgruntled, disenfrancised or even rebellious. Deep down, she’s a cockeyed optimist — see the bluebird of happiness buzzing through her fall florals — even if she likes to feign a little edge. She looks appealingly mussed but never disheveled. Her patchwork trapeze top, bloomers and even a jumpsuit were as bright as those worn by any harlequin, while pieced-together tweed jackets and smart plaid coats sported all the pluck of a cinematic Oliver Twist, chin up and singing, “Me, oh my, what a won-der-ful feeling.”

Roberto Cavalli: This is one man who has all the trappings for a great party: a daring, rock-star attitude, a young and sexy lineup of flashy TV stars — and wild, sexy clothes to boot. After all, he’s covered J.Lo’s booty and revealed Britney’s navel, so who wouldn’t come to his fashion fete? And that’s just what everyone did, but sadly, they were kept waiting, literally and figuratively.
Cavalli’s show, which started more than an hour late, never quite took off. Yes, there was still plenty of what they came for: head-turning kelly-green fur coats cut long enough to drag on the ground or cropped short and worn over tight snakeskin capris; sparkling beaded minidresses, barely hitting crotch-length; skintight stretch blue jeans embellished with jewels at the waist; colorful chiffon dresses with plunging necklines. And to top it off, he threw in the requisite supermodel as well: Cindy Crawford. But when Cavalli detoured into the land of safe — who goes to him for safe? — he stumbled, almost as badly as the girls in his 110-mm. jewelled stilettos wobbling down the runway. A simple black suit, a black dress or a Chanel-esque tweed suit may all be perfectly fine items, but when did they become the essence of Cavalli? Combine that with the show’s slow pace and the lack of the designer’s usual fun-and-games approach, and the fete fizzled. In a season reeking with glam, this was not the time to hold back, Roberto. Or, as Pink, another Cavalli rock-star devotee would say, let’s get this party started.

Strenesse: Even some of the most powerful designers on the block have toned it down a bit this season. Not Gabriele Strehle. She’s into “f-f-f-fashion,” as David Bowie once crooned. Her very deliberate fall collection for Strenesse centered around an Eighties-style Japanese aesthetic that came into vogue back when SoHo was gritty, artists could still afford lofts there and sushi was a novelty. With silhouettes cut as round as a hot air balloon and a nuclear winter’s worth of black, Strehle worked the era’s special Ks — Kansai and Kawakubo — at their sober best. A sweeping kimono-sleeved blouse came cinched with an obi and paired with a prim circle skirt. Then Strehle dropped the shoulders of her oversized black cashmere coat lower than low, pegged her pant legs and set loose embroidered Chinese dragons and tigers to rage across the backs of cropped satin jackets.
But while, at first, the designer seemed to put a fresh spin on familiar concepts, by the show’s finale, her look became a little too familiar, not to mention forced. Take the pink kimono-print apron dress — please. But for those fashion addicts who wore deep grooves into the Bowie album but were too young to go out and dance to it, most of these clothes will let them live the life they missed the first time around.

Piazza Sempione: Some designers push the razzle-dazzle factor all the way up to the last glittering sequin. Marisa Guerrizio, the designer of Piazza Sempione, on the other hand, prefers a subtler approach, such as sewing tiny Swarovski beads inside the collar of a tailored jacket. Discreet luxury is the backbone of this company, and Guerrizio is certainly not departing from her philosophy that embellishments should be subtle, not thrown in your face. So this season, her chevron blazers are lined with tie-patterned silk satin; diamond-cut Murano glass beads are appliqued on cashmere sweaters, and denim jackets take on a haberdashery dimension with hand-finished button holes and melton-lined collars.
As usual, the clothes have just the right dose of urban chic infused with a sporty attitude, a formula that rarely disappoints retailers. Gently tailored double cashmere jackets, raw-edged shearling coats and more formal flannel pantsuits were delivered in a rich autumn palette of bark browns, olive greens, terra-cotta reds and plum. When she wasn’t showing solid shades, Guerrizio took to stripes in blurry chalk strokes on navy flannel and regimental versions for cotton poplin blouses.

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