Once again, Donatella Versace presented her Atelier Versace haute couture collection in absentia, installing it on the second floor of the house’s Avenue Montaigne store. The collection is based on Steven Meisel’s 1988 medieval Versace campaign that depicted mega-models du jour, including Carolyn Murphy, Audrey Marnay and Maggie Rizer as noble goddesses with a soupçon of warrior spirit. “So the idea was to give this very strong Baroque meaning, but with this rock-‘n’-roll attitude from Versace,” said Marc Hellmuth, head of design for Atelier, who walked visitors through the static installation.
Turns out, history has multiple guises. Yes, there were the chic references to warriors and royals of yore — lavish fabrics; articulated, armorlike constructions; antique bronzed and gold finishes — some echoing (vaguely) the painterly moodiness of Meisel’s iconic pictures. But first and foremost, this display referenced classic Versace — the glam, the glitz, the high-heat intensity. Just weeks ago, it was confirmed that, after nearly a year of intense negotiations, Riccardo Tisci will not be signed by Versace. This collection may have been Donatella’s way of signaling that — make no mistake — for the foreseeable future, she alone is the house’s creative director.
Her steadfast oversight of its destiny finds her in an interesting place, dedicated to modernizing and relaxing her approach to day, which had resulted in a string of smart, strong ready-to-wear collections. At the same time, she has refocused couture almost exclusively to the siren song of evening, this season’s strong-shouldered white coat with cutaway sleeves embroidered inside a rare exception. Otherwise, this entire collection seems to have been designed for red-carpet domination, with little viability for events of quieter resonance.
Odd as it sounds, that may in fact amount to a declaration of practicality from Donatella; the red carpet is where Versace’s haute visibility is. And many celebrities still love a sexy, snazzy dress (or sexy, snazzy bodysuit with attached skirt) that shows off the body. Yet therein lies a conundrum. Literally and figuratively, the clothes sparkle with the crafts of couture — precision cuts, embroidery, intricate smocking — and they’re as hot as it gets. Yet their particular heat blazes more with familiarity than forward movement.
This collection’s currency is rendered in elements not readily apparent. Flourishes of 3-D printing included a snake belt encircling the waist of a silk chiffon gown, and the concentric metal arcs reinforcing the concentric gold leather tiers of a short, structural cocktail dress.
Powerful? Without a doubt. And often beautiful. But one would like to see Versace incorporate into her couture some of the more obvious modernist chutzpah she’s brought to her rtw.
More From Paris Haute Couture Week Fall 2017:
Paris to Honor Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel Couture Show: Mayor Anne Hidalgo is to decorate the couturier with a Grand Vermeil medal, the city’s highest distinction.
Paris Couture Gains Extra Day as Confidence Returns: France’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture has welcomed five brands as guest members on this season’s schedule.
Tory Burch Supports Proenza Schouler at Paris Show: Caroline de Maigret and Gaia Repossi were also among the guests.
Couture Week Tells Its Stories on Instagram: The French fashion federation reiterates its social initiatives with a cadre of 11 influential guest posters capturing the mood of a week of couture shenanigans.