Alberta Ferretti spent the eighties offering an antidote to the harsh, sharp working woman wardrobe that prevailed. To GPS her into the Italian fashion landscape, she's somewhere around Romeo Gigli - that is, the opposite pole to the tough, trapunto-stitched, duchesse satin operatics of Gianfranco Ferre.
Yet Ferre was one of the references that jumped out from her Autumn/Winter 2012 show. Perhaps it was the precise, pinstripe suiting with silver fox stoles thrown over, or the giant mohair coats belted in leather and worn with cyborg sunglasses, or the graphic velvet and chiffon panelled evening dresses. The colour palette - blood-red, a Papal purple and every textural reiteration of black - was pretty Ferre. In fact, it was totally Ferre, the grand gesture of Italian fashion at its most full-on and overstated. Don Giovanni meets Christian Dior. Tough panels of calfskin stitched into the melton wool fabric of coats and dresses like cuirasses was equally full-throttle. This was Ferretti doing warrior woman.
Well, it was warrior woman alright. But was it really Ferretti? There seemed to be less of a battle and more of an argument going on across the Ferretti catwalk, her trademark floaty, serene femininity fighting against what seemed to represent 'fashion'. Ferretti was fighting to get out, but for some reason seemed intent on choking her trademark style. Maybe she felt it wasn't right for the times? But this punkish parade of rehashed eighties power-dressing wasn't either. There were whispers of lace and fragile, floaty tendrils of fabric and ostrich feathers interspersed with all that harshness. After bustier dresses, dog-collars and more than enough rock-chick combinations of black, scarlet and violet, Ferretti sent out half a dozen gossamer black dresses, billowing softly, traced with a spider's web of seams. They looked more emphatic than all that leather and satin rolled together, and certainly more empathetic to both the wants and needs of Ferretti's fan.