Versus: Donatella Versace’s been known to indulge in a little nostalgia from time to time, and she certainly knows her way around retro. She also knows better than to send out a collection that looks rote. So this season, she decided to mix it up and gave Versus a look that played to all that the Eighties was. She surfed through the years, sampling a bit here and a bit there from the decade’s various fare.
There was a racy red minidress in blousy chiffon that had something kind of neo-romantic about it. A black stretchy slash dress and others held with a single rhinestone spangled strap spoke more to the Glam Rock camp, while ruched dresses hinted at Madonna’s “Borderline” moment — looks that suggested a real life club girl who would drop into the Paladium one night and the next go off to the Mudd Club.
At other points, however, the Versus girl’s destination was less clear. Simple tops were tied with streamers at the shoulder. There were iris prints, suedes, geometrics, iridescents, satins and bows, bows and more bows. A little of everything, in other words. What was missing from the show and from the collection itself, however, was the clear-cut point of view that Donatella usually broadcasts as loudly as her booming soundtrack. Versace has wielded nostalgia’s double-edged sword wickedly and well in some of her previous efforts. But in her eagerness to cover all the bases this time, she sacrificed that sense of irony one has come to expect in her sexy, feisty collections.

D&G: The go-go Eighties were about excess, and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana remember that party decade well. It’s a perfect reference for this secondary line, which is all about getting dressed, going out and blowing some cash. Thus the boozy, smoky setting and all the references to money and looks that bordered on fun-but-trashy. Setting the stage a la “Casino,” the designers who know how to enjoy themselves assembled gold pillows, ottomans and tables complete with cigarettes and booze.
Their money motif showed up in the form of a currency evening gown and a “Cause I’m Worth It” tube. But Dolce and Gabbana aren’t quite ready to give up the looks that made them famous — corset dresses, some with spray-painted images of a space girl one might see on a Vegas slot machine; animal prints for hip V-neck tops and leggings trimmed with gold knit, and the usual tights paired with a cropped leather bomber. The designers even poked fun at the era in question, with overdone bows on minis, bra tops and a gown. It was all in the name of having a good time — and everyone did.

Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti: Breezy and girlish has always been Alberta Ferretti’s m.o. So it was no surprise that her spring collection for Philosophy was just that — and full of all manner of pintucked and pleated fare. Her best looks, silky shirtdresses in pale blue or tan and gauzy peasant tops worn with small khaki shorts, were notable for their guileless ease. Leathers looked light; crisp cottons just right.
And Ferretti shone when she stuck to the high road, avoiding the temptation to trend-surf. Of course, there was a major misstep when it came to those bubble dresses. She isn’t the only one who’s made that trespass, but it begs the question: If everyone jumped off the top of the Duomo, would you? The rest of the designer’s evening looks, however, were simply beyond reproach. Gone were the scores of too-sheer dresses that had been almost agonizing in seasons past. They were replaced by something much more practical — and lovely — in a parade of perfect black party dresses. These, especially, showed just what Ferretti’s made of and the kind of pretty things that demonstrate the best of her talents.

Blumarine: Anna Molinari is just wild about the Fifties — as if you didn’t know — and she has a way with the stuff of that era that just won’t quit. For Blumarine this season, she gave her favorite decade a smart, Eighties spin, showing a barrage of sock-hop numbers, complete with rustling crinoline underskirts in aqua leopard or in hot pink tiger prints and in big, bold florals. The palette was simply electric, and nearly every look glimmered with a smattering of sequins or rhinestones, too — just for good measure. These included tight tops and pencil-thin pants, sparkling bikinis and a bizarre set of rhinestone-studded terrycloth rompers.
It just goes to show that even when her muse is a campy, sugary good girl — the kind who might wear a swinging belted dress, for example — she’s really a vixen at heart. Those sweet little dresses are held tight with corset lacing in the back, after all. But it’s all in good fun. The Molinari moll is no wallflower. Her wardrobe is calculated to draw a little attention to her sexy side, and to her sense of humor, too.

Genny: Oh, the perils of following trends! Josephus Thimister, in his short tenure at Genny, has tried to bring an au courant aesthetic to an otherwise stagnant house. Unfortunately, the results haven’t always worked. In the past, he’s flirted with everything from artsy details to hard-edge glamour, but it looked best when he kept things easy and elegant. No such luck this time around.
Thimister dropped the simplicity of last season and, instead, reveled in over-designed details that were too derivative of Nicolas Ghesquiere. And while Ghesquiere has tested the fashion waters with unique ideas that many have found influential, it takes a strong hand to execute them, and that’s what Thimister lacks. The collection opened with pretty leathers and suedes in ballerina pinks, girly and sweet right down to their pumps, swathed in ankle ribbons, but it lost its way quite quickly. Pants and walking shorts with double pleats — on both front and back — added pounds to the hips, destroying even the best bodies displaying them. Ditto for the finale, bustiers and skirts made of shredded leather and suede, which looked more tangled than trend-setting. And those wispy dresses and jackets may have been tied with a contrasting leather ribbon to emphasize the waist, but we saw that idea last season from a top Milanese designer. In this case, some trends are best left alone.

Roberto Cavalli: Just look at the image this man projects: lavish parties and fancy store openings, rock star friends like Lenny Kravitz and Jennifer Lopez, and ad campaigns filled with bevies of beautiful girls and guys lounging seductively by a pool, complete with a swimming tiger. This isn’t a discreet fellow, by any means. His flash-and-trash, in-your-face glamour is the total crux of his business, and from the first stilettoed heel out on the runway to the last see-through dress, spring was also in that vein.
But buyer beware: These clothes are not for the faint of heart. For spring, his neon animal patterns of past seasons gave way to psychedelic swirls and splatters, covering everything from dangerously short minis to kimono-sleeved chiffon tops and second-skin stretch jeans, which, according to Cavalli, should be worn very low — so low as to expose the cut of a sheer bodysuit. And so what if the occasional breast popped out — as the girls on the runway discovered, it’s all part of the Cavalli fun. Risque? Absolutely, but then, this is also the girl who hangs by the pool — with a tiger or not — in a white leather maillot, white floor-sweeping foxtail coat, reflective shades and sandals with five-inch heels.

Piazza Sempione: In-your-face clothes and flashy embellishments have never been Piazza Sempione’s cup of tea. Since the company was formed a decade ago, designer Marisa Guerrizio has always focused on toned-down luxury with a modern edge. For spring, she kept her shapes clean and lean, favoring rich fabrics and materials and using gray mother-of-pearl buttons as discreet decorations. The collection, shown hanging on racks or on dancing wooden puppets, included reversible napa and suede jackets, chunky ribbon-knit sweaters, floral-printed blouses paired with polkadot skirts and skinny white pantsuits.
Piazza Sempione’s latest way of coddling its retail clients is a business-to-business Web site that will enable them to track the status of their orders — from the moment one is placed to the time it’s delivered. “The system allows each client to be independent and it makes the whole process much faster,” said company co-owner Roberto Monti.

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