Roberto Cavalli set his raucous show against a giant wall of video screens that bore an uncanny resemblance to the ones Sean Combs installed for his New York presentationwhere Cavalli himself was a surprise guest. The imagery evoked a dreamy futuristic metropolis out of Blade Runner, but as the pace quickened and the soundtrack throbbed ever louder, it segued into heady images of Hollywood red-carpet awards ceremonies, the Rio carnival and Las Vegas showgirl acts. These are, perhaps, among the select venues where a girl can carry off such raucous Cavalli-isms as a trained hourglass leather dress, cut and decorated like a motocross biker’s jacket. Or a sweeping black Cruella De Vil mink coat with a giant white eagle flapping across the back, worn over a barely there mermaid gown, blown together on a wing and a prayer with the help of myriad black sequins the size of licorice candies.
The Cavalli girl clearly exists on a plane far removed from common humanity, but there was a giddily seductive let-them-eat-cake bravado to the designer’s madness. He even surfed some of the current trends: 60s op-art prints; a dash of 80s punk, in the hand-beaded “graffiti” on skinny-leg jeans and the chunky dog-collar chokers worn with over-the-top rhinestones; the second-skin boot cut crotch-high; and a great take on the season’s ubiquitous crystal-beaded, fringed flapper dress (perfect for a New Age Roxie Hart).
But the designer was at his most persuasive when he laid claim to escapist Bob Mackie territory with Jayne Mansfield siren gowns in lamé chiffons and a frothy ostrich- and cock-feather bubble coat worn over a Tina Turner sequined mini. Even his classically tailored, shapely jackets were slashed at the sides, his shearling flying jackets cropped short over midriff-baring dresses. As Jacquetta Wheeler swept off the runway in a Moulin Rouge showgirl costume that left little to the imagination (but a whole flock of apricot ostrich plumes in her wake), the rest of Cavalli’s glamazons pranced out wearing Lycra catsuits in vivid Warhol- and Basquiat-inspired prints. Don’t ask me where they’re headingjust make sure to invite me along for the ride.