What was remarkable about Roberto Cavalli's show was how subdued it felt. Yes, there were back-laced corsets, silver and gold embellishments, and beads galore. But the glamazon of collections past, who first showed signs of flagging last season, has been replaced by a woman who wears a thick braid in her hair and more often than not works the subtler side of sexy. How? By donning toreador jackets and a relaxed pant, cut full through the leg and cropped at mid-calf. She even, believe it or not, wears flats. The result was a show that took a step or two in a new direction without alienating Cavalli's core customer.
Just because there was a masculine undercurrent to the collection didn't mean that there wasn't plenty of the line's signature flash. Those jackets were edged in lavish embroideries and beads; shirt fronts were dripping in frills; and a coat in metallic leather was so elaborately laser-cut it could've been lace. Ethnic touches, nearly absent in New York and London, have been edging their way back onto the Milan runways. The fringe seen elsewhere this week appeared on a shirtdress, as well as at the hems of suede skirts macraméd through the waist and hips. A flamenco dancer's flounces, meanwhile, decorated the sleeves of a crystal-belted dress.
No Cavalli show is complete without animal prints, of course. For spring, leopard prints dotted a corset and zebra stripes radiated from the center of a chiffon gown with dramatically trailing sleeves. This piece stood out from more predictable evening fare, such as halter gowns with open backs and a provocatively sheer rhinestone-encrusted dress. He edged into showgirl territory with a beaded black number that wasn't much more substantial than a leotard, but again, it didn't look crass. And, after all, he has to give his loyalists what they come for.