Roberto Cavalli reads as a cantankerous fighter, not a lover. His latest
dustup was a war of words with Giorgio Armani. Yet he consistently
turns out some of Milan's most powerful visions of feminine pulchritude,
so you have to conclude that, for all the tough-guy posturing, he really
is a man who has made it his life's work to
bring beauty into the world. And when Cavalli refers to his collection
as "a dream," it's clear that he has an acute understanding of the
transformative power of fashion. After all, he's living proof.
He was also referring to today's collection as "43 paintings," which
translated as 43 ways to frame the body of a woman. With the amount of
skin on display, there wasn't a hell of a lot to some of the "frames,"
but they were so masterfully constructed that the power of suggestion won
out over bare-all revelation. Cavalli's design pendulum swung between
languid slipdresses and hyper-tailored suits, both encrusted with
crystals and glass embroidery, both strategically slashed open or
transmogrified with ornate leather inserts. The swirls and whorls of
Art Nouveau architecture were a big influence on prints that were
engineered to trace a woman's anatomy. The designer combined them with
his signature jaguar and python prints for a sophisticated update of what
are probably the ultimate Cavalli clichés.
Not for the first time this week in Milan, the show opened with all-white
looks, worn by blondes, and closed with brunettes in all black. The
monochrome allowed for a greater appreciation of the breathtaking work
the Cavalli atelier does with embroidery and beading (and was still doing
in the seconds before the first model hit the catwalk). In between,
there were boudoir-sheer mousselines detailed in shades of lime green and
apricot, soft in substance, TKO in style. Easy enough to infer that the
collection was some kind of day-to-night journey; equally likely that, in
Cavalli's dream, his women are both angels and devils, inspiring and intimidating. He'll never win every battle,
but fortunately for those of us who relish his moments in Milan, he'll
never stop trying.