Roberto Cavalli's runway, wrapped in gilded purple brocade, and his spectacular setsuggesting a Renaissance palazzo with its four-poster bed smothered in spotted fur and flanked by sculpted elephantscould only hint at the fabulous excesses to come. This season, dressing à la Cavalli involves an enticing melting pot of influences, from the lush fabrics favored by the princely merchants of sixteenth-century Venice to the Hapsburg splendors of Sissi, the beautiful nineteenth-century empress of Austriaall leavened with a dash of Johnny Depp-ian piratical swagger.
And youd need a pirate's ransom to get these clothes on your back; the great Parisian embroidery workrooms had clearly been toiling into the night to embellish Cavalli's collection, which was unbeatable for sheer, decadent luxe. A chinchilla chubby? Smother it with crystal frogging. A Persian lamb hussar's jacket? Lavish it with golden braid. A fabulous shearling, cut like an eighteenth-century man's coat? Encrust it with sparkling jewels. From the Lesage archives came a dazzling sunburst emblem, originally created for Schiaparelli in the 1930s, representing that other giddily opulent Sun King, Louis XIV. The designer gave it new life, lavishing it on furs, using it to anchor artfully draped jersey gowns, and even embroidering it on his teetering cavalier boots.
For the Cavalli gals fleeting daylight moments, he laid on elaborately seamed second-skin pants, doublets from a Bronzino portrait, and pirate shirts in brocade-print chiffons. Furs ran the gamut from outrageous to even more outrageousthe season's abbreviated bolero shape was pierced with crystal-bordered cutouts, and even a classic pony trench was overprinted with zebra stripes.
But after dark, things really let rip. Cavalli was clearly thinking of grand seductions à la Dangerous Liaisonsand what more could a great seducer hope for than a romp with a Cavalli diva, barely clad in a wispy chiffon dress, falling off a pale rose satin corset? (Or in anything from the playful finale lineup of short frocks with Madame de Pompadour bodices and a flurry of temptingly rustling skirts.) Yes, Cavalli's heroines just want to have funand in this heady collection, the designer served up a treasure trove of exactly that.