MILAN, Italy — Everything about the Versace show was gigantic. The venue was a huge domed space called the Citylife Palace. Strobed by spotlights, it felt like a rollerball arena. The sound was Transition, a massive early-Noughties techno track by Detroit politicists Underground Resistance, given an LGBTQ spin by Portuguese deejay Violet.
And the collection? The biggest, best thing Donatella Versace has ever marched down a catwalk. Maybe it was the scale of the venue that unleashed the beast within. Or perhaps it was her recent proximity to Riccardo Tisci that inspired her to kick back, then stomp.
Violet’s version of Transition was recorded for Equality Now, an NGO dedicated to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. (Versace noted a donation to the organisation in the show notes.) Given the seriousness of that issue, the horrendous challenges faced by women in male-dominated communities all over the world, a fashion show is a pallid contribution to the cause. But Donatella was clearly galvanised. Images of empowerment can come from unexpected quarters. In fashion terms, she dressed a Versace army. Khaki, cotton drill, and camo were the basic ingredients, sculpted, laminated and stirred up with animal prints. Outfits for Amazons in an urban jungle; perched on weaponised footwear.
There were so many artful techniques on display — from crochet to glazed raffia to artfully feathered hems — that you began to wonder what bushel Donatella has been hiding her light under all these years. If there was razor sharp precision in khaki utility-wear, there was skilful deconstruction in fil coupe knotted into a dress as casually as if it were a holiday sarong.
Electricity comes from other planets. Donatella clearly has good antennae. She has listened and learned. And the application of that knowledge in this collection made it a supremely impressive highlight of her career in fashion.