"Donatella should've modeled." That was Christopher Kane, a Versace acolyte, following the Atelier Versace show at the Ritz tonight, a few moments after the platinum-blond designer took her bow in a black patent corseted dress with a waist so tiny it rivaled those of the teenage models. The point being, this haute couture show was as Versace as Versace gets: the pastel chain mail, the hip-high slits, the scarf prints, the Medusa emblems, the bared skin. If a few crystal beads fell as models strutted down the catwalk, that kind of thing's bound to happen at the dance clubs these dresses are destined for.
"It was very emotional. I had to get up my courage to come back," Versace said after the show. Not that you'd know it from this fearless display. First off, she'd booked the Ritz hotel, home to her brother Gianni's couture shows for eight years, and not just for a show in the pool room, but also for a dinner in its restaurant, L'Espadon, followed by a disco party. Then, she recruited a celeb-packed front row: Christina Hendricks, Fan Bingbing, Pierce Brosnan, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, and M.I.A. had the photographers lunging across the runway for their shot. And as for the dresses, Jessica Alba put it best: "sexy, strong, warrior." Or maybe Elizabeth Banks: "Donatella's not afraid to show off a woman's body."
Lindsey Wixson opened the show in an A-line trench constructed from thin strips of ivory patent woven through rose gold buckles and cinched with a boxing belt that looked like a riff on her recent men's collection. Versace elaborated on the process for short corseted dresses made from tarot-card-print silk laminated with PVC and cut into narrow lengths; bits of flesh were visible through the slits. Later on, that game of peekaboo became even bolder. Slashes on beaded evening dresses were sutured together with strands of crystals; another dress was patched together with silk chiffon lacing from pieces of leather that were hand-cut with tiny circles and hexagons. For colors, Versace favored nudes and jewel tones that matched the cocktail rings made from yellow diamonds, emeralds, and topazes the models wore on both index fingers.
A couple of hours after the last model hit the catwalk and Donatella took her bow, the Ritz's pool had been converted into a disco, complete with a set from M.I.A. "Can you feel the spirit of Gianni in here?" a reveler asked. "I can, I can feel it." With Versace and her daughter, Allegra, grooving with Dita Von Teese and Alba in the VIP section and everybody else looking on, it was some party. Donatella's party.