Donatella Versace was the first person to find a good name for the elusive chemical-bright turquoise that has shot through the best collections of Milan: She called it litmus-paper blue. Her use of it was spot-on, as was a startling red and a single bolt of sulfuric green, as well as chic contrasts of black, camel, and white. Is this the most important news to come out of Versace? Maybe: Bold color innovation combined with a pared-down, superprecise shape can make a collection jump this season. It cross-references with both Prada and Jil Sander. Perhaps this is becoming the twenty-first century's first run at making minimalism excitingand who would have guessed that Gianni Versace's little sister would be involved in that?
But she is. Donatella Versace has stripped off the gold Medusa heads, canned the scarf prints, and set about cutting a strong, feminine silhouette. "It's about a bell shape. Controlled volume. Black and whiteand color to put the life in," she said. The "bell" is actually a kind of molded hourglass, emphasizing the waist and hips, but constructed in a demi-couture manner that neatly avoids constricting vulgarity. Versace used it in techno-fabric dresses, jackets, and tailored coats, and in one amazing dyed red fox that had been shaved into that shape in the midsection.
Not that Donatella has fully restrained herself from channeling the more-is-more essence of Versace. You still see it at full vent in her varnished gunmetal crocodile coat with short flared mink sleeves, the hilariously excessive white powder-puff fur-and-patent bag, and, of course, the chain mail and draped, slit evening gowns. Still, the picture of what Donatella has to say is becoming clearer by the season. It's a cleaned-up image of a strong, expensive woman completely in charge of herself, and though there is eye-poppingly luxurious technique involved, the most striking development is just how wearable most of the clothes are beginning to look.