Donatella Versace has come to a critical realization: She doesn't have to re-invent the wheel, she just needs to remind the world what the wheel looked like in the first place. Her engagement with London's young fashion scene has introduced her to a posse of design-stars-to-come, all of them mesmerized by the Versace legacy. And she's been inspired by their devotion. That much was obvious from the very first outfit in the men's collection she presented today. It was a double-breasted suit in a classic Prince of Wales check, closing low to emphasize the torso. Its sleeves were insouciantly pushed up in the way that used to inflame the menswear establishment, back when Versace-wearing pop stars were injecting precision sartorialism into pop culture. Within seconds, another double-breasted suit in equally classic pied-de-poule came tootling along, this one accessorized with chunky gladiator mandals. By which point there were intimations that there was no top too over for this show.
And that was precisely the case. Two words—baroque and buckles. The swirling curlicues that were a Gianni signature reappeared here in black and white, coiling across jeans and silky blousons, decorating the terry robes that were once every well-dressed pool's accessory of choice, and insinuating themselves as the tone-on-tone pattern on a sheer mesh shirt. The buckles were the decorative hardware that ran rampant down trouser legs, more successfully on leather than on wool. They also did the work of buttons as jacket closings.
The palette rose to the occasion with a florid Miami symphony of chrome yellow, grass green, vermilion, cobalt, and hot pink (there were pink socks with the red patent mandals that anchored a pink suit). The color scheme was most intense with lacquered-knit breastplates in all of those shades.
Gladiators? Breastplates? Donatella has tuned back into the campy classicism that once gave the Versace label its unique tang. There's no point in talking about a return to the eighties when the enthusiasm for these clothes will doubtless be derived from people who weren't even born then. To them, this will simply play as a new flavor of excess. But even they will be teased by the eighties dilettante dilemma—when is too much just enough? True Blood's Ryan Kwanten, perched in the front row, would probably have an answer to that.