Blame H&M. Donatella Versace's collaboration with the visionary Swedish mass-marketers awakened a slumbering beast in her bosom by hot-wiring her into the kick-ass part of her family business' past. Backstage, after a runway show that was as in-your-face as anything we're likely to see this season, she agreed she felt liberated. "Nothing succeeds like excess," wrote Oscar Wilde, who could almost be the patron saint for the strand of fashion this season that isn't bent on sober suiting. Donatella was truly Oscar's handmaiden.
One waggish guest suggested the riotous catwalk farrago might have been Donatella's response to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Flower-powered paratroopers were the shock troops of a psychedelic army. And so it went that a sensible masculine-military reference would be subverted by a searing blast of color or print, like the officer's coat over an eye-poppingly patterned jumpsuit, or the trenchcoat in Chinese red topping a leaf-green turtleneck. One of the collection's building blocks was denim, but it was so jazzed as to be straight out of the Michael Jackson style guide. A studded jacket sported a chrome yellow shearling collar. Black leather jeans had a denim crotch, and an alligator jacket had sleeves in same. And a vest and jeans were so chain-linked they would have clanked if the soundtrack had allowed an aural.
If the unapologetic crassness of such items compelled a memory-blessed segment of the audience to hark back to Versace's glory days in the eighties, these clothes weren't actually echoes of that era so much as an antidote to any suggestion of playing safe in the face of economic constraints. She who dares wins. Donatella knows this.