Burberry Prorsum: As he approached his first women’s runway show for Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Bailey was a relatively unknown entity with an impressive resume: Gucci, Donna Karan, the Royal College of Art. In June, Rose Marie Bravo had tapped him to succeed Roberto Menichetti, and the early returns say that it was a smart move. Not because the collection he showed on Monday night was perfect — it wasn’t — but because it was strong, confident and had a sensibility that didn’t scream, or for that matter, even whisper, Tom Ford, under whose tutelage Bailey spent the last five years. Such lack of mentor reference is a difficult thing for an ascending designer to pull off.
But then Bailey, 30, who boasts of being a North-of -England boy, figures he wasn’t brought in to create a slick rock ‘n’ roll image for the house. Sure, he wanted to deliver the edge that’s requisite if a firm is going to strike gold these days, but he also wanted to infuse the clothes with “friendliness.” Certainly there’s something delightfully British about Bailey’s first take: well-bred but just a little naughty in its casual compilations of parts, as if a young Miss Marple took shopping advice from Nancy Spungen. “We started with the idea of a refined Englishwoman,” Bailey said before the show. “But then I mixed in other references, punk and Gothic.”
He also wanted to start working the Burberry heritage in a way that doesn’t conflict with the firm’s more classic London line. That meant assorted trenchcoats — one in a subtle windowpane, another punked-out in back; trench details on a skirt; a wacky string-fringed muffler in those classic plaid colors. As for the plaid, it turned up in a button-out coat lining and a sweetly girlish knife-pleated skirt.
Throughout, the collection displayed that nifty Brit knack for merging practicality with charm. One could envision long, cozy strolls through the countryside in Bailey’s terrific waterproofed coats. As for his culottes and blazers, some of the fabrics looked heavy, and they’ll be a tad aging on the over-30 set. On the other hand, nothing says youth culture like a schoolgirl Goth dress. It all made for an impressive show, and Bailey now seems to have a terrific base on which to build his vision for Burberry.
Missoni: Take the house classics, add some bold Byzantine motifs and a hint of Wiener Werkstatte. Spin it all with a Talitha Getty boho attitude, and you’ve got a lively fall collection from Angela Missoni. There has never been anything remotely minimal about the Missoni aesthetic, and once again, the designer celebrated color and pattern with rampant enthusiasm. But what made this one of her stronger collections is that she knew when to say when, at least most of the time.
Clearly, Missoni wanted to demonstrate the range of the house signature. She showed knitwear almost exclusively and named various groups after women of iconic style — Frida, Babe, Wallis. Whether Mrs. Paley or the Duchess would have felt just so in a pair of striped HotPants is debatable. But surely, plenty of women will appreciate Missoni’s fresh aesthetic, pared-down in silhouette if not optic verve: sweaters that slide alluringly off one shoulder over slim skirts; breezy, lightweight dresses. Of course, the downside in doing a collection almost exclusively in knits is that some pieces are tough to wear. While much of the collection had that sought-after hippie feel, some things make a girl look just plain hippy, so all but the most willowy of types should walk on by those ribbed-knit fanny-hugging pants in baby blue.
Yet such missteps aside, Missoni appears to have worked out her urge to overstyle, and seems to have the family house on a solid course.
Alberta Ferretti: Some designers opt for fine dining, but for fall, Alberta Ferretti practiced the buffet method, sending out a collection made up with a little of this and a little of that. Simple wool duffle coats, soft knits and pieced suedes were matched with chiffon dresses galore — Ferretti’s specialty of the house. Those flirty numbers came knotted, pulled apart at the seams and laced back together again, trimmed with feathery little scraps of chiffon or covered with large flapping pieces as big as cabbage leaves. One dainty dress was even burdened with a ruffled chiffon streamer that trailed behind it like a thick strand of seaweed. But the best were the most delicately deconstructed of the bunch, not the manhandled looks. After all, it’s the finesse of her most feminine clothes that make Ferretti’s fans feel pretty. Kooky deconstruction can be fun. But here, at times, there was so much of it that the clothes became incomprehensible.
Pucci: Forget the rainy streets of Milan. Just the mere mention of Pucci should conjure up images of sunny Capri, high glamour and tanned bodies, barely covered by the house’s bright, swirling print that has become as recognizable as any initial out there. Speedboats, beach frolicking — ah, that’s the life! But no such luck for fall. Julio Espada, who, for spring, took that much-welcomed detour with gauzy print dresses and terrycloth rompers, chose this time to dress the Chelsea girls of Sixties London instead. Cute? Sure, what pixie isn’t, but you don’t go to Pucci for that. Espada did indulge his audience with the signature print, this season mutating it into a Sixties Pop-Art version and printing it on everything from corduroy and felted wool to velvet in colors more suited to Burger King than the Blue Grotto. Shapes were equally diverse, ranging from the staple Sixties coat — Peter Pan-collared, double-buttoned, bracelet-sleeved — to Victorian capes and shrunken blazers. In an even more sober moment, Espada showed a simple knotted-front black gown, which seemed so out of place in a world filled with swirling optic colors and a season decked out in glamour.