“She is always THAT woman. The one who is never afraid.”
So read Donatella Versace’s program notes, words that could have been penned about the designer herself. But then, to a palpable degree, Donatella has always been her own muse, her innate fearlessness expressed most obviously in her career-long celebration of women’s sexuality.
Yet there’s more to fearlessness than strutting your stuff. (Although as she proved with her bow on Friday night, the woman still works a stiletto with the best of them.) There’s the fearlessness of proactive evolution (and sometimes, dramatic change), and of staying true to self in uneasy times. The two may sound antithetical; they’re not. In the collection she showed on Friday night, Versace proved her propensity for both.
First, the evolutionary tide. True to the Versace heritage, this was an upbeat, effervescent collection, filled with notice-me clothes worked with euphoric color and pattern and a specific silhouette — body con. Yet whereas once Versace would have rendered that combination as aggressively sexual, recently she has turned down the heat, and this spring, significantly so. For starters, while her models were not undone (I mean, come on), they were significantly less done, particularly in the coiffeur category, the mega blowouts of yore gone in favor of more casual looks. Thus simplified, Versace’s beautiful young women (and less young — the incomparable Shalom Harlow closed the show) wore mixed stripes and checks with sporty élan (and a dash of Nineties), until they gave way to an exploration of weightless layering, dotted and floral transparencies twisted, turned and draped around the body, sometimes atop legs veiled in similar patterns. The takeaway: sensual eccentricity.
As for staying true to herself, Versace infused this show with a familiarity of the best kind: It was signature, as she refused to let short-sided zeal for obvious currency trump brand identity. Apart from some sneaker sightings that once would have shocked, but no more (Bella Hadid in a tight, lime-green leather cocktail dress and clunky sneakers), and some denim, cheekily Versace-fied with scarf prints, Versace here showed no interest in the sport/street thing — happily, not a sweatshirt in sight. Who needs to steal street when you own metal mesh? Which still sizzles, but now more softly so, under a sheer floral drape. That’s double currency — cultural and commercial.