Picture Grace Jones in one of her iconic hoods. That's what Donatella Versace did as she was designing her new Atelier Versace collection. "She left a sign as a strong, powerful woman, a power goddess," Versace said of Jones before the show. "I wanted to embody that." Versace set about her glam salute by combining the body-con silhouettes that are essential to the house DNA with more fluid draping.
Fashion is trending toward easier, more relaxed silhouettes at the moment, and Donatella may be keying into that, but if her designs here were liberated, they were fierce in a way that will be familiar to the label's followers. Take the opening tailleur. The skirt was draped black silk jersey studded with a grid of Swarovski crystals, but the jacket was as structured as a suit of armor, its rhinestone-embroidered hood conjuring Ingrid Bergman as Joan of Arc as much as it did Jones.
As it happens, Azzedine Alaïa, the man who first put Jones in a hooded dress, was watching in the audience tonight. But this collection was all Donatella, with the anatomical seaming on cocktail dresses picked out in stone and outlined in tiny metal chains, and geometric back cutouts flanking a lacing detail that ran up the spine. Graphic tattoo motifs were stitched in crystals onto the sheer tulle of a top worn with a very un-Versace voluminous ball skirt. "Tattoos are a new form of art, a less elitist one that everybody knows," said Donatella of the impulse. Other embellishments were more understated, or if not understated, at least more personal. Donatella certainly relished pointing out the cropped black Perfecto that closed the show. Made from tiny pieces of leather sewn onto georgette, the jacket weighed next to nothing, a feat only a couture atelier could pull off. It was the signal achievement of the collection, and there were certain elements in the crowd that would've liked to see more along those lines.
In the end, though, it will be the flash and bang of slinky red-carpet numbers in acid green, orange, and purple, their corset waists embroidered in glass beads, with bare legs flashing, that will provide the collection's most-tweeted images.