Donatella Versace's quest to reenergize her company began in a great place for fall; whatever spirit had gone missing over the past few years was symbolically retrieved by the fact that she made her models look like modern goddesses. The aura of glamour that sparked off the flying hair and luminous faces of Carmen Kass, Daria Werbowy, Eugenia Volodina, and Karen Elson was a strong reminder of what once made Versace electrifying. And that a show can be something more exciting than watching a few wan girls walk listlessly up and down a runway.
As the world knows, Donatella is back from rehab, and the effect on her work is visible. In a mood to clean up and face reality, she's pared down the clothes and focused 85 percent of her collection on daywear. That essentially means a streamlined version of Versace classico, with most of the clanking Medusa gilt stripped off. Not that the sex factor has been censored out altogether. Versace coats come with a nipped waist and a voluptuous shawl collar, and swingy skirts and boot-leg pants are seamed to present a rock chick's back view in the most provocative way on earth. Apart from a couple of tightly draped jersey print dresses, the plain colors (white, turquoise, lime, and fuchsia) let the quality of the cut and fabric do the talking.
The usual mind-numbing lineup of Versace gowns was confined to five stunning dresses from the Atelier collection, each outstandingespecially the one in fluid black and dark-green chain mail patterned in whorls, on Daria. It was a worthy reminder of the great old days that would have made her brother proud.