June 22, 2012
"Pugilist." That's the strong man whom Donatella Versace saw as the pillar of her latest men's collection. In the year of The Hunger Games, a gladiatorial fight for survival is a timely reference (Alexander Ludwig, one of the movie's stars, was in the front row), and, beforehand, Donatella was laudably vocal about the need for the youth of today to be gladiators on behalf of their rights. But the pugilist defined by her show notes was "Part Rocky, part Elvis, part Mr. T," and that campy litany underscored the fact that the clothes she showed placed one right above all others. You can guess which it is. Yep, paaaarrrty!
The opening tableau elicited gasps and cheers with its lineup of minimally clad manbots in full heavyweight-champ mode as reconceptualized by the House of Versace. Though it was all in aid of (re)launching the label's under- and swimwear, it set the tone for the extravaganza to come, which might best be described as a Roman orgy staged in a Miami discotheque. No, that's not fair. There was plenty of top-to-toe, layered tailoring, even if it too was infected by a gold-buttoned showiness and a disinclination to provide sleeves for jackets. But, in the show at least, it was relatively ineffectual against the power of bulging biceps and thighs.
Still, sideline that fleshy excess for a moment, and there were some gems: a broderie anglaise blouson; another blouson in a coppery silk lamé; denim, silk, and voile printed in vivid florals; a canvas suit that turned the combat theme into a symphony of zips and pockets. In a surely unintended but entirely complementary way, it took a naturally pugilistic spirit to edit such items out of the over-the-top farrago of the show.