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At Bottega Veneta, Tomas Maier showed looks with a low-key luxury…at D&G, the theme was “Blue Hawaii”…and Anna Molinari did glam-rock looks.

Bottega Veneta: A genius once suggested that form should follow function. And so it should, even at a fashion show, an event with a number of quite specific functions: to allow a designer to present his vision for a season clearly and concisely, exactly as he chooses, and allow retailers and editors an opportunity to experience

and respond to that vision, while seeing the clothes.

So it’s surprising that Tomas Maier chose to show his Bottega Veneta collection in such a peculiar manner, especially since he’s determined to expand the image of the house from its accessories origins to that of a complete ready-to-wear house. First, no one working the door knew how to work a door (always a pleasure). Worse, once herded inside in packs of 20, guests found it nearly impossible to see the clothes fully. Those who managed to muscle their way through the standing-room-only crowd for a decent position near the runway simply could not concentrate on the clothes in a manner conducive to doing their jobs properly.

Maier said the collection was about “low-key luxury that’s never in your face.” That sense manifested itself most dramatically in a woven croc Cabat bag requiring 25 skins to the tune of 65,000 euros — even close up, who knew? — but the real stunner was a terrific bag in gold metallic leather. As for the clothes, they displayed an ease of proportion with a Seventies nod that looked fresh, if sometimes a little clunky. Throughout, the designer played softness against structure, the former appealing in fluid printed silk dresses and skirts, the latter in sturdy cottons with a jaunty spirit that turned sloppy on occasion, as in the too-wide pants. But the bigger problem was that one just did not leave this sorry presentation with a solid sense of what Maier wants to say as a designer.

D&G: It’s never too hard to guess the season’s theme upon entering a D&G show. If the runway is set up like a cutesy thrift store, expect a vintage motif. If there’s a DJ parked front and center, get ready for club gear. This season, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana decorated their D&G set with a few palm trees and a tiki bar. And clothes that said “Aloha” — adorable tropical printed shirts and jeans airbrushed across the rear with hibiscus blooms — weren’t far behind.

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The designers, however, were dually inspired not only by “Blue Hawaii,” but by the star of that beachy 1961 classic, Elvis Presley. Last season, his granddaughter, Riley Keough, walked the D&G show, but this time, the King himself put in an appearance on dozens of photo-printed T-shirts. Moving on from beach boy to rockabilly pinstripes to later Elvis moments, the designers sent out loads of rhinestones, coating the lapels of a gold leather jacket in glitz and decorating a pair of cropped pants with a glam sunburst. While a few pieces — acid-washed denims and grotesque swimsuits — took the trash quotient beyond the limit, Dolce & Gabbana always manage to make most of their most over-the-top ideas wearable. Case in point: a slinky tropical rhinestone miniskirt glistening with tropical flowers. It’s sassy enough to suit a rock star’s kin, and pretty enough to leave a regular girl all shook up.

Krizia: Calling all occupants of interplanetary craft. It seems as if Mariuccia Mandelli has abandoned you for spring and returned to Earth after last season’s jaunt into outer space. Her feet may not always be planted firmly on the ground, but this Krizia collection is a big improvement.

In a nod to the Far East — and all those Japanese retailers in the front row — Mandelli opened with a gold floral dress, a white cotton suit and a dress stamped to look like crocodile, all cinched with black leather obis, as well as a trio of black-and-white floral print silk dresses. Just the sort of fare that is sure to rake in the yen. Pastel pink knits were nice and light when paired with silk skirts printed in abstract circles. And Mandelli worked pastels to cheekier effect in little tops and tap pants in burnout florals. But when she closed the show with some wacky numbers cut from crinkly, shiny black silk, you couldn’t help but wonder if she was heading back into the clouds.

Anna Molinari: Designer Rosella Tarabini’s spring collection for Anna Molinari was schizophrenic, to say the least. Setting the scene with a runway bathed in deep blue light, while Marilyn Manson covered the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” in a Linda Blair “Exorcist” voice, hardly seems the way to go when the program notes cite “luxury and innocence.”

Tarabini’s girls started out all right. Crisp short suits with shrunken jackets in turquoise and fuchsia were cute when paired with floral tiered tops. The sweetness continued in a glam-rock way, with loads of sparkly metallic disco shorts paired with floaty blouses and embroidered satin blazers. But things got really weird when black-and-white lingerie looks ruled the runway, followed by a slew of Edwardian-inspired gowns in an unflattering explosion of chiffon. Tarabini is at her best when she controls her enthusiasm, but this season, it seems, she just threw caution to the winds.

Trend Les Copains: Who can resist the breathtaking beauty and glamour of Capri and the Amalfi coast with their picture-perfect beaches, turquoise waters and masses of bougainvillea? Not Trend Les Copains designer Antonio Marras, whose show backdrop depicted that leisurely panorama and whose endearingly sweet collection couldn’t have been more fitting.

With a nod to the good old times — think Jackie O strolling the paths of Ravello — Marras’ girls bounced down the runway in happy-to-be-here clothes: Twin sets with appliquéd flowers tumbling down the front were paired with frothy skirts; flare-’n’-flounce dresses came in striped and dotted patchwork; cropped boxy jackets were detailed with sequins and tossed over shorts. Throughout, Marras worked it all in a genteel palette of lime green, ecru and salmon pink. And he threw a lot of lively accessories into the mix, including clutches, bamboo-handled baskets, strands of pearls and cork-wedge sandals in fabrics that matched the clothes. Perfect for la bella vita.

Bally: Luca Rangonesi, the ready-to-wear designer at this leather-goods house, bases his design process on two tried-and-true theories. First, his customers — more working moms than high-glam types — prefer quality over dazzling effects, and second, the clothes back up the brand’s core business — accessories.

For spring, Rangonesi sent out a collection of comfortable, travel-friendly leather pieces and outerwear, done up with small details such as zips, slits and the occasional ruffle. Taking a cue from the company’s Rainforest project — a limited-edition Nature Bag in leaf-printed satin — the designer also took a walk on the wild side with jungle prints that he fashioned into everything from see-through blouses, snug jackets and shorts to hats, satchels and beribboned wedges. He managed to tame it all with plum suede jackets, a black oiled peccary blazer and a cotton and silk trenchcoat.

The wide-ranging accessories collection, designed by Johnny Coca, who joined the company in May, blends basics with a soupçon of the season’s trends. Among the standouts were strappy wooden wedges, cherry red sandals that tie around the ankle and napa satchels in baby blue.