One of those empty office buildings with arresting panoramic views of the city of London was the site of Antonio Berardi's show today. The setting was appropriate: The big inspiration for Berardi's Fall collection was the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died at the end of last year.
In the confines of one of those identikit office spaces so beloved by developers—and probably viewed dimly by Niemeyer—it was up to Berardi to make a collection worthy of the architect's maxim: "My work is not about 'form follows function,'" Niemeyer famously said, "but 'form follows beauty,' or even better, 'form follows feminine.'"
Yet the designer did not take his inspiration too literally. He didn't largely lift motifs from the architect, except for the characteristic curvilinear heel design of the shoes and tour de force appliqués and embroideries "inspired by photographs of aerial views of Brasilia,"
as he explained backstage after his show. But for the most part, Niemeyer's architectural rigor inflected the collection. The curves were, by and large, provided by the girls wearing them.
Known for sex appeal, it was interesting to hear Berardi talk about these shapes being "monastic." The monastic was certainly in evidence in the first, structured neoprene cape that made an appearance on the catwalk. It followed in the elongated jacket shapes throughout—including one train-backed floor-length coat—and the almost tabard approach to some of this clothing. In fact, monasticism turns out to suit Berardi's designs well, especially as he is so skilled in building these silhouettes—they by far outshone his more body-con dresses. But the standout pieces of the collection were those whose embroideries were combined with the more linear, architectural shapes. Here, panels of city-grid embroideries would sweep down the almost sheer sides of garments, belying the simplicity of their plain, almost boxy, forward view. It was strictness made sexy, in an altogether unexpected way for this designer.