The Atelier Versace show began with wolf whistles. Naomi Campbell slinked down the runway like only Naomi can, in a jacket held together—barely—with crystal hooks and eyes. Underneath she wore a black lace bra, and she was flashing a substantial swath of upper thigh. Uma Thurman, Emma Roberts, and Zachary Quinto looked on from the front row.
The inspiration for the new collection, easily Donatella's most confident since she returned to couture a year and a half ago, was the black-and-white photography of the thirties, updated for the twenty-first century. "Horst and Man Ray," Versace confirmed at the cocktail party that followed the show. Referring to the era, she said, "It was a moment about precision, about perfection, and lots of work."
There was no shortage of work here. Those crystal hooks and eyes, for starters, traced the dresses' anatomical seams and trimmed provocative open panels on the front or back, revealing embroidered bustiers. A trenchcoat was elaborately pieced together from strips of knitted mink, shredded tulle, and sequined lace—same goes for the show's racy cropped sweaters. And a cat suit that plunged down to Lindsey Wixson's navel was paneled from lace, net, and handwoven leather. That piece was the least thirties-ish of the lot, but all of the models wore real diamond jewelry designed by Versace, evocative of the glamour of old Hollywood.
For all the show's intricate, laborious details, though, the big story was skin. And we don't mean the mink-lined crocodile trenchcoat with sleeves embroidered in sequins in a matching shade of purple. The models on tonight's runway exposed significantly more flesh than the subject in Horst's famous shot of Mainbocher's corset—hips, décolleté, entire torsos. Same as it ever was chez Versace. But in the end, the most gorgeous number was probably the most discreet—an evening dress with an illusion neckline embroidered in a flame pattern of black and midnight blue tulle and sequins.