January 11, 2008
We sat and we waited while Beyoncé and Jay-Z wended their way through Milan to Donatella Versace's latest show. What better couple to test the claim that we were about to see a collection that offered "a male wardrobe to warm the heart of women"? And what fun it would have been to learn what Ms. Knowles made of clothes built on superhero detailing like shoulders of surpassing strength and capelike volumes flowing from jacket backs. But it wasn't Superman Donatella had in mind for the mannequins on her catwalk. She was actually thinking about the way that the cult Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka (beloved of Madonna and Jack Nicholson) painted the men in her life. Those pictures offered an image of brooding, haunted males in dramatically oversized coats, suits, and decadent little add-ons. Andpresto!Versace presented a modern take on the same. Her proportions were so extreme that resistance was futile. A duster in chocolate-toned shearling was a TKO. A monk's habit collided with a duffel coat to produce one of fall 2008's must-haves. A monochromatic evening look (black tux, black shirt, black bow tie) spectacularly drowned under a huge black officer's coat. Get the feeling the show was all about outerwear? Well, if the Russian Front ever had time to mount a fashion show, here were the key pieces: a shearling poncho and a black leather greatcoat. The color palette was mostly about de Lempicka's deep, velvety darknessplum, mulberry, imperial purple. Perhaps that's why the jet-black bugle beading under a jacket lapel stood out. Subtle but extremeit's a tricky balancing act.