MILAN, Italy — Donatella Versace said she wanted to challenge stereotypes with her latest men’s collection. What is the traditional challenge to hidebound masculinity? PINK! Oleanders bloomed all over the catwalk at Via Gesu. The tinted roof panels filtered a pink glow into the courtyard. The lucite catwalk was the shade of pink lemonade. But inside that glowing pink cocoon, Donatella’s challenge took a different form: hidebound masculinity unhinged by a killer combination of rococo decoration and hormonal teen rave culture. Not in its purest e-head, glowstick joy, but in the mad-eyed nutterdom of Keith Flint, the primal heartbeat of rave icons Prodigy. They played once at a Versace party when Gianni was still alive. Flint killed himself in March.
That darkness was in keeping with the Versace ethos, which is often a kind of black celebration. The show opened with severe, high-belted black leather, collar-and-tie strictness. (Gigi Hadid sported the women’s equivalent in a maitresse look which reeked of B&D.) The tailored severity was tempered by side-laced leather pants. Versace by Robert Mapplethorpe? The look “loosened” into black leather bikers, then fringed black leather bikers. Then leopard. Then fringed leopard. And tie-dye, and FLINT, in all the glory of his crayon-coloured, devil-horned hair.
In both the men’s and womenswear she showed, Donatella created a sensational tension between hard and soft: glossy PVC vs. silken rococo knit. A collaboration with the artist Andy Dixon produced florid serial images of Bacchus and race cars. Debauchery and speed? Sounds like teenage! But Dixon also contributed images of exotic vases that were beaded on fluid jackets and pants. They seemed like a peculiar last-gasp embrace of a classical past that was being overwhelmed by everything else on the catwalk. Yes, you could fairly conclude that stereotypes had been well and truly challenged on Donatella’s catwalk, but even her challenge was being overtaken by the speed of life.