The Moschino invitation arrived with a T-shirt emblazoned with the legend FOR FASHION VICTIMS ONLY. Years ago, Franco Moschino himself printed the same message on a straitjacket he showed in one of his collections for men. And, starting with the baby photos in the video that preceded the actual show, "years ago" was on people's minds tonight with the thirtieth anniversary of the label that still bears Moschino's name nearly two decades after his death. Alberta Ferretti helped Moschino set up his business in the first place, and from her front-row perch, she insisted, "I want to say thank you to Franco a thousand times." Catwalk legends Pat Cleveland, Violetta, Amalia, and Gisele (the original, pre-Bündchen one) modeled iconic pieces from the archives. And Gloria Gaynor showed up to croak Franco's favorite song, "I Am What I Am."
That T-shirt sentiment pretty much summed up Franco's contentious relationship with the fashion industry. Keeper of the flame Rossella Jardini has done a remarkable job of carrying on his legacy while smoothing off her mentor's ironic, abrasive edges. Bill Shapiro, Jardini's lieutenant for twenty years, defined the label ethos before the anniversary presentation tonight: "Let's move forward." If the body of the show offered a good/bad duality—two outfits for the price of one catwalk moment—it was kind of kitten cartoony. Brassy belts broadcast GOOD GIRL or BAD GIRL so you knew exactly where you were at any given moment. Franco's claws would have been more lacerating.
Nevertheless, what was on offer was a pretty effective edit of the label's ongoing strengths. Clothes for every occasion—with enough of a twist to make them seem like "fashion" and not some generic interp of the same. Still, the highlights were those archive pieces that ring now with a quite surreal strength: Erin O'Connor wore a jacket with golden spoons for buttons. Princess Caroline of Monaco had that jacket. As Lou Reed spat so memorably, "Those were different times." And Alek Wek modeled the iconic sequined question-mark sheath. Franco's question was this: What is fashion? Decades later, are we any closer to knowing?