PARIS, France — It all started so well, when Karen Elson appeared in a pale pink cashmere coat, its lustrous green duchesse satin lapels casually shrugged off one shoulder, its wide belt cinching a drape of cloth. Like a combination of trenchcoat and bathrobe, strong yet indolent. Attitude was everything, as it has been throughout Donatella Versace’s creative renaissance.
Within seconds, another coat followed, this one crimson with ice blue lapels, over a lilac slip dress. She said the colour combination was her favourite. It was tricky but striking, and it promised more good things to come. Clearly, draping was the story here, as with the little black dress whose bodice was swathed in bronze and lilac satin that flared out into a huge asymmetrical train.
But then the draping got a little conceptual — as though the fluid fabric had been freeze framed in motion. As it got more sculptural (flashes of John Chamberlain’s car accidents in art!), it started looking more random, less sensual and natural. Bella Hadid’s red sheath erupted in odd lava flows of satin. It was almost as though there were two voices here, each shouting to be heard.
The sculpting continued into dresses contoured in undulating waves around the body. The waves broke into thick fringes of fabric, or else they were stiffened into asymmetrical peplum forms that seemed to be pulling across the body. Yes, they exuded an icy, sparkly, queen-of-outer-space glamour in alt-Versace style, but Donatella has done such a brilliant job of bringing the house’s ready-to-wear collections down to this island earth that her couture couldn’t help but disappoint. Again, it’s like two voices, and I know which one I want to hear.