Before his show, Roberto Cavalli paraded around the catwalk with Lupo, his German shepherd. It was an outlandish image, but not as outlandish as the tiger pattern on the catwalk (which was composed of 40,000 flowers). And not nearly as outlandish as the clothes that subsequently made their way through the flowers. In its more-is-never-enough excess, this was the most impeccably styled, luxurious collection Cavalli has ever shown. But it also mastered the power of illusion to achieve a de trop, Fellini-esque grandeur. So when Naomi Campbell sailed down the catwalk barely harnessed into a waterfall of purple sequins, it seemed like the only appropriate full stop to a show that had turned nature on its head, painting python with big cat motifs, printing mink with python, turning glossy ponyskin into scaly croc, creating, in other words, an extraordinary new menagerie, one worthy of Nero himself.
The artisanship was such that the clothes needed to be seen close up, and better still, felt. The bubble skirts that opened the show, for example, were made up of fur that was pieced together like feathers. They were shown with T-shirts so densely beaded they could have been a new kind of reptile skin. By the time the skirts reached the floor, they were mink lasered to look like croc (mocodile?), or python painted in tiger stripes. There were a couple of other major silhouettes. The first consisted of extremely feminine tiers of mousseline. (One dress seemed to re-create a crocodile skin in glitteringly glazed scales, but who would be crazy enough to dare such an eyeball-straining piece of embroidery? Need we ask?) The second was a rock 'n' roll dandy-tailored suit, with peaked shoulders and long, flared legs. Every outfit was a book—or at least a movie.
Cavalli has created his own fashion vocabulary. Sometimes he whispers it, other times he screams. Today's show was one long, sustained holler of unholy glee. He was exuding it backstage, clearly happiest when he's making some noise.