The couture collection Gianni Versace presented in Paris in July 1997 marked a new direction for the designer, a darker, more stringent, more modern vision whose promise was brutally curtailed a few days after the show when Versace was murdered in Miami. Taking up his legacy, his sister had to live with the sense of optimism tragically truncated. Clearly, there were times when she could cope, times when she couldn't. But it was only with her show today that Donatella felt she could finally, as she put it, face her demons. That meant taking on the unrealized promise of her brother's last collection. A bold move, but everything about Donatella's momentum of late has suggested she's shed her insecurity and embraced her iconic status. She's ready to rock.
Hence, a show that ramped up the gothic elements of Gianni's last collection—the crucifixes, the monochrome severity—with a hard-core energy that tapped Rooney Mara's crazily influential stint as The Girl. It wasn't only the high bang (that's what hairstylist Guido Palau called that fugly fringe) and makeup artist Pat McGrath's sepulchral eye socket. It was also the seamed, studded leather; the long-sleeve, throat-tight coat-dresses; the armorlike corsets; the chain mail clashing with opulent astrakhan—all of it shouting out protection and defiance. In the same spirit, Donatella hit hazmat orange and chrome yellow hard as accents that sparked in the dark.
Reanimating her couture collection in Paris last month had obviously steered Donatella toward a heightened sense of construction. The built-out hip put in a reappearance, but it looked so much better as part of a vibe-y little dress, rather than an Occasion Gown. Donatella saved those for last with shimmering plasticized columns of paillettes. As much as the season has been dragon-tattooed to this point, it's also been in thrall to Fritz Lang's darkly dystopian Metropolis. Donatella certainly brought down the curtain on robotic retro-futurism.