A casual and laissez-faire approach to dress is not something normally associated with Antonio Berardi—and he knows it. This season, it was his challenge to himself to inject a bit more of a sense of don't-give-a-damn into his event clothes.
"I wanted to do something slightly more urban, but done in an exquisite way," said the designer after his show. "I wanted to use couture fabrics, but not in the context of couture. It was an idea of moving my woman forward and taking myself out of a safety zone, away from the things that I am known for."
So instead of the super-sexy body-con, there was the oversize, and the oversize sweatshirt at that—one of the main motifs of many collections this season, but Berardi's were particularly good. There was the enveloping, boyish, biker jacket shape—but realized in duchesse satin rather than rough, tough leather. Meanwhile, the event wear, those fluttering long numbers with their train backs and short fronts, weren't dresses but skirts, a mix-and-match separate to be worn with the more mannish elements.
Yet Berardi will never really be that casual—and it is not as if a train skirt, trailing along the ground, will really be the thing worn for an everyday visit to the corner shop. But who the hell ever wants to go to the corner shop anyway? When you are wearing couture fabrics and a train, you no doubt have people to do that sort of thing for you. The body was still revealed in this collection, but through a play of transparencies and lace, particularly in see-through fronted trousers (not the easiest thing to wear) and shirts with delicate triangle bra tops underneath (really easy to wear).
Those shirts and triangle bra tops were some of the loveliest things in the collection and had their own boyish sense to them. And this more boyish element really did suit the designer well. But what is perhaps most significant about this season is the ability to take Berardi's clothes out of the context of his own collections and mix them easily with others for almost the first time. Quite often with his clothing, there is no getting away from "the full look," and it is only very rarely these days that people will slavishly devote themselves to wearing only one designer—this has really been holding Berardi back. The color palette of this collection was a bit unwieldy and weddinglike, but now it can be easily diffused. This season might just be a collection for the designer to build upon: promising and pointing the way to something else.