The unlikely muse for the Roberto Cavalli show today was Lee Miller, the beautiful American photographer who seduced le tout Paris at the end of the 1920s. It was more the style of the period than the style of the person that the collection drew on. There were evening gowns that were beaded Art Deco columns. A tweed coat with a huge fox collar had a touch of Zelda about it. And drop-waist dresses that dissolved into fringe recalled a flapper, which Miller most definitely wasn't. So maybe Cavalli recognized something in her character that turned him on. There was preshow talk about a woman who embraces her masculine side by day—in tweed and leather, in military or equestrian or bike-inflected clothes—and who, at night, becomes a seducer, a conqueror of men.
But isn't that always the way with the Cavalli woman? Maybe that's become a problem. It's too much to expect the shock of the new from such a label, but some of the greatest Cavalli moments of the past few years have come about when the designer gave the formula a shake—and that was usually when he gave his femme fatale the night off. Here, she was in full, blazing effect, parading round a ring of fire that blossomed threateningly as the show wore on. Cavalli wove the flames into jacquards, tipped fur with them, sent them licking up a skirt in black duchesse. It was a feat of workmanship, no doubt about it, but it was furiously overwrought, like some crazy operatic Sturm und Drang. And it tipped the clothes toward costume. Perhaps it was that Wagnerian ring of fire that made the whole show feel like a Vegas revue. Once that train of thought left the station, all the dazzling workmanship in the world couldn't bring it back.