(images via wwd)
the latest versace effort, for fall 2011, has gleaned both positive reviews, mixed, and those flatly negative, and while i can see merits in all of those points, i also think we should take a moment to try to respect what donatella versace is trying to do—turn a new corner for the brand.
but first, a quick recap: there were hints of military, with the first looks on the runway cut in black and navy and accentuated with big gold buttons, turning to what cathy horyn dubbed “baroque”—and here we saw almost grecian swirls on little dresses with a rather subdued feel for versace, as well as feathered and sequined gowns to close out the show (and these the wsj really hated, commenting, “I’m not sure who wears a yellow dress of ostrich feathers. The feathered pieces had nothing to do with the military looks or the geometry of the rest of the collection, and that sort of bon-bon-eating frivolity isn’t what we look for from…Versace”), and hints of schoolgirls traipsing in amongst the looks throughout.
i will admit that unto itself the collection wasn’t a particularly cohesive whole—there were a number of fragmented ideas here that scattered along the wind as was too-common in the days when ms. versace first took the reigns of the house following its founder’s death. however, while the word “sexy” is on many a critic’s mind—it appears in nearly every versace review predictably as the brand name itself—the fall show felt a marked departure from the heavy push we frequently see.
to be sure, there were leather looks, bondage-esque straps, and plenty a high slit on a skirt to give us understanding of where we were, but it never seemed to descend into the territory of skintight, silky fabric, featuring those outlandish displays of cleavage we’ve sometimes seen (not that there is anything wrong with that—in fact, versace does it among the best of them).
instead, the sometimes-schoolgirl aesthetic seemed a nod to christopher kane’s versus of s/s 2011, where a light hand and cheerful demeanor were keywords of the day. ms. versace has noted that she could imagine mr. kane designing for the main line in the future, and although it might simply be (another) tangent on opt’s part, perhaps the fall collection marked an effort to slide the brand along that path. it will forever be the house gianni versace built, but has the time yet come for at least a little re-imagining?
and yet, for all that, the sensuality and end parade of oscar gowns were still on full-throttle, with nearly everyone making comments on the latter, no matter what the tone of their review: “The sexy goddess gowns she did send out, with bondage-y busts and gentle feathered trains, were striking, especially one quietly bejeweled stunner that rang 1-800-CALL-ME-OSCARS” (wwd), “(T)hat Hollywood classic should be on the red carpet Sunday night on some Best Actress lovely” (wsj), and “Backstage after the show, a tired but pleased-looking Donatella showed off the collection highlights as fashionistas tried to guess who would wear the feathered gowns to the Oscars” (afp).
in summation, i can say that there was plenty of glamour mixed in among the simpler, sweeter looks to keep any storied versace customer happy. the runway may not have had the flash-and-pop of seasons past, but wouldn’t we all gladly sacrifice that if it meant a house founded on more that loud, bright colours and bold sexuality? ms. versace has become a stronger designer in her own right as time has passed and knows now how to infuse subtleties and humour into her work. but perhaps we’re today not giving her credit for that, focusing instead on how we want the biggest christmas tree. after all, isn’t it way past time the versace woman evolved a bit into something besides a troll through the archives? sometimes it seems critics cry if they don’t see enough of that, but it’s a true pleasure to see some real branching out for the designer.