MILAN, Italy — The recent political climate has been so ominous that casual chat easily turns to Berlin in the 1930s, a prelude to Cthulhu only knows what. So it was easy to interpret Donatella Versace’s latest menswear presentation as a dance across the lip of the volcano that boils mere metres below us. It was weighty, it was dark, it was bracketed by red and black, the colours of political extremism. And it took place under a latticed pergola designed by Harry Bowen and Josh Haywood, who create similar things for the anarchy of Burning Man.
Burning Man? Versace? Such notions in the same breath were a gauge of where Donatella has taken the family business. But if there has been a sense of far-reaching freedom in recent collections, here it felt she was knuckling down for hard times. The show notes highlighted a feeling for the tribal: strong silhouettes, prints like clannish markings. The soundtrack had an orchestral superhero surge. But it wasn’t convincing.
Violence lurked. Not just the red and black colour palette, but the huge secret-police coats, the photo prints of heroic classical statuary, the art deco patterns that would have adorned the apartments of apparatchiks in the 1930s. When Donatella spoke of “the pride of identity,” she could scarcely have known how open to interpretation such an idea would be. But, in an unwitting way, she underscored how prevalent the notion is. Her runway was no longer the usual bastion of butch. Instead, it highlighted exactly the sorts of boys next door who are likely to be the harbingers of our doom.