PARIS, France — Women of the world, take heed. “We speak our truth, we move to the beat of our own drum.” Portuguese DJ Violet has become Donatella Versace’s musical mouthpiece after the soundtrack she supplied for the epochal womenswear ready-to-wear show last September. But haute couture is another animal altogether. If ready-to-wear offered a riot of forward momentum, a Donatella galvanised into fierce action, the Atelier Versace couture show felt a little too same-old to sit comfortably with the confident new demeanour she is presenting to the world. Yes, she tagged it “athletic couture” and the ergonomics — the racer backs, the cut-outs and second-skin body-consciousness — certainly supported that idea, but the manifold ways to bare the female body felt less like an extension of the idiosyncratic feminist spirit that Donatella displayed with her Spring collection than a step back in time.
“I was born with the body to manifest my own power,” Violet intoned, which possibly explained outfits that played a strategic, daring peekaboo. They suggested not self-empowerment but self-consciousness. You would need to be on constant alert with an outfit whose patchwork of fabric was sutured together with cords of Swarovski crystals. One wrong move and a wardrobe malfunction would be yours in a flash. Other outfits fortunately showed more self-control. The opening passage was promising, blinding white pieces harnessed by colour. Stretch stirrup pants felt like a statement of intent from Donatella, an item seemingly irrevocably besmirched as 1980s kitsch, here hopefully reclaimed as high fashion, although a white onesie, threaded with a harness in blue micro-paillettes, exposed the limitations of that hope.
Accept that the collection was not the expression of the new Donatella that one might have hoped for and there were dresses here that were winningly red carpet-bound. That’s what you get when you drape Rosie Huntington Whitely in cornflower blue silk and slash it high on a Thai-tanned, worked-out thigh.