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Versace: There’s a two-part tradition around any Donatella Versace show. First is the star-studded front row, filled on Thursday night by Missy Elliott, Elizabeth Hurley, with her fiancé Arun Nayar in tow, and an exotic newcomer to the celeb-guest ranks, Donatella’s colleague, competitor and new best friend, Miuccia Prada. Second is the post-show party, held this time around at the Moroccan restaurant Dar el Yacout. But that was only a warm-up, because Versace was scheduled to leave town today en route to Los Angeles for the biggest dress-up party of all, the Oscars. Packed with care in her luggage: the glamorama of red-carpet gowns that closed her show.

Versace didn’t even pretend that these were designed for the world beyond the Kodak Theatre site of Sunday night’s festivities. Hence the illusion netting on two daringly low-backed numbers — barely there, and yet happily secure for live TV.  And the presence of all that makes for surefire hits among the actress set: curves, glitter and bare skin (or its illusion) with none of that dicey has-she-packed-it-on Josephine shtick that so romanced the last couture. 

But even Versace girls have to face the light of day sometimes — hardly an excuse for looking less than glam. So yea to volume of a sort, but nay to renderings more cumbersome than a strong shoulder or diva collar on a beautifully sculpted cashmere coat. Then again, if you’re talking sable, lynx or fox, why not amp it up? A girl will only work those voluptuous furs over the skinniest of skinny pants. Also ultra-lean, Versace’s dresses came in shirred jersey or an earthy mixed-up animal print. 

Despite some elaborate details, such as python appliqués on a suede and sable coat, Versace kept many of her clothes plainer than usual, highlighting the refined construction that gave even the sexiest shapes an aura of jet-set chic. And she had subtle fun with dreamy dresses in pastel chiffon; they looked oh-so-girlish while leaving little to the imagination. Naughty or nice? A little of both. Just like Donatella.

Fendi: Whatever the serial intrigue going on within Fendi, it didn’t push its way onto the runway of Karl Lagerfeld’s fall collection. Instead, Lagerfeld came up with his best collection in some time, a show of audacious, take-no-prisoners style.

This story first appeared in the February 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The mood felt a little bit Eighties in its power-woman attitude, and at times in its proportions, but it was delivered with a savvy control that skirted costumery by a mile. When Karl went big he went really big, in faux-sportif hooded furs, zillion-euro send-ups of the humble stadium coat. He also showed high-drama capes and huge collars on belted cutaway jackets. Oddly enough, while most of these were fur, he often disguised that fact, shirring, waffling and otherwise treating many of the skins to look like anything but. All that flying fur, however, was momentarily overshadowed when a single pair of fab boots hit the runway. They were painted, embroidered, tasseled — and simply gorgeous.  

The key look, a coat or jacket over a dress, sounds simple enough, and even low-key. But discretion is not the Fendi way. Lagerfeld paired his boldly cut furs with a range of dresses that, despite their diversity, had one thing in common: a serious sizzle factor. They came short over thigh-high hose or with bodices center-slashed from throat to navel. And sometimes, Lagerfeld let color do the flaunting with brilliant purples or bold abstract prints.

Occasionally, all of this abundance became too much. Giant triangular crystals turned a pretty jersey dress a tad too space age, and one or two fluffy pastel furs gave off a whiff of Russian mistress. But no matter. She’s just a different kind of power babe, and there’s room for all in Karl’s fractious Fendi family.

Miu Miu: Grannies — the kerchiefed Italian variety as well as those grannies who took a trip during the swinging Sixties — brought a vintage vibe to Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu collection this season. It all came together in a more polished collection than last season’s peppy geometric romp, even though Prada’s ladylike manners read a touch tongue-in-cheek.

On the one hand, Prada worked in beatnik-y black, showing a roomy sweater belted over a straight skirt and blousey dresses in black lace. On the other hand, she got groovy with some power paisley, folksy appliqués and glazed brocades, including a patchwork trenchcoat glowing with gold.

But then, Prada’s Miu Miu muse has always played up her intellectual artsy side while maintaining her good-time girl rep. On party night, she can indulge that split personality with two-tone dresses embellished across the bodice with sparkling paisleys, while simple as can be below. To otherwise suit her every mood, Prada sent out a Pilgrim-prim coat in stoic black as well as another in ultraviolet astrakhan bordered in Mongolian lamb. Right on, sister.