On a drizzly Friday night in Milan, the entire fashion pack queued in cars to eventually arrive at an out of town(ish) full sized sports stadium. The venue was huge, and the catwalk wound around the venue in long curvaceous lines. It felt like a couple of minutes until the first look made its way to our section. It was quite a surprise once it arrived.
This is a big season for Donatella Versace. At the end of this season’s show notes, she put forward a statement saying: 'This collection is so important to me. Every piece is wearable, desirable, real. It’s all about expressing a woman’s strength and her individuality.' A much more modern take on female strength than last season - this was like a style redemption. The models in the entire first section - rather than tottering out on male gaze contraptions - were at last free to live their lives. Thank you, Donatella, for dropping the heel heights, and delivering some cool kitten heel boots. It was a real opening statement. Before the girls arrived, a female narrator announced, 'Passion for living, for surviving, for dancing all the time.' These girls can finally do this! Donatella is right: it is real and wearable. Some of her customers will need time to be re-educated, but she has courageously decided to teach them about the ease of the new now.
Once the obligatory (and still entirely necessary) tailored coats section was out the way, the clothes shown were sporty, and even craftsy in places. All in all, layered, lighter, more interesting and easier. For the Versace girl who still demands a graphic line, leggings were worn with eighties style stirrups hooked underneath heels. Striped sports socks were worn either as arm length gloves - or as sports bras, which were visible at the back of draped scarf print dresses. There were a couple of incredible jumpers, which saw the trompe l’oiel stitches develop into real life stitches, mish-mashed in different colours and embroidered with pretty paillettes. It felt spontaneous, almost folkloric. The show notes spoke of the jumper being the new Versace evening option. For this house, this is big stuff.
A near flouro salmon pink trench still had a hard line black patent lapel, but take that away and it’s a spongey fun coat that could have been much softer and cooler. I don’t think we’ll ever get away from the harder line though, and in a way I don’t think we should have to. This brand’s visual DNA engages in a Milanese based formality and strictness, which is near classic – and we don’t want a complete homogenised viewpoint of fashion out there. However, when Karlie Kloss walked out - looking like a Bauhaus sports goddess, in a navy crackled shift, black elastic headband and low-slung ankle boots - she was testament to the new ease that Donatella has found.
The print section was Gianni divine – yet toned down enough, so that they were angelic or irreverent rather than vamp. One could definitely see someone wearing one of these pieces alongside another piece, say from Gucci. Now, THAT would be confident dressing. Let’s shop maximalism laterally. C’mon, if anyone knows prints in Italian fashion, it’s Versace – so maybe time for a (muted) revival?
There’s a real confidence in Milan. Versace has always been a key player – and we needed it to be part of the new collective vision. This collection wasn’t just important to Donatella; it was important to fashion. I'm so pleased the severity has subsided, and that the tortuous heels are less torturous. This is a moment - a moment to play.