Francesco Scognamiglio creates clothes that are often as indecipherable as his surname - a fusion of high-tech with high-camp, space-age meets baroque, boldly going where taste has never gone before. Then again, his always-flashy sometimes-trashy style seems like just the sort of thing to get red-blooded Italian blood pumping. They understand not only how to say Scognamiglio, but how to wear it too - just look at fellow countrywoman-once-removed Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga.
That said, his Autumn/Winter 2011 collection felt like something interesting from Scognamiglio - something ordinary folk could actually wear. Well, some of it at least - I'm not sure how many takers he'll get for a crotch-length bejewelled French maid's uniform, or thigh-high bondage-boots constructed of strips of Swarovski diamante that made a fascinating but not entirely attractive grinding noise as the models strutted down the mirror catwalk. But, for once, Scognamiglio seemed ready to offer women something to put on their back off stage, and before midnight. Witness a selection of oatmeal-coloured tailored numbers and neat silk and lace blouses in subdued hues of powder-pink or black and white. These had an air of seventies Valentino to them - yes, that was Valentino, not Venus, and terribly chic they were too. Scognamiglio evidently liked the look of fabric folding around the body, so he offered oversized blazers cinched with skinny leather belts, and fabulous slouchy trousers, oversized legs folded together at the waistband and falling softly open over the legs. One came with projecting jabots of fabric, ruffling up and over the hips at the front like wings. Sounds kooky and ooky? Those trousers were the most elegant thing he's ever made.
Indeed, Scognamiglio's daywear (well, day-to-cocktail wear - not sure you could sport a transparent monochrome chantilly-lace blouse on the school run) was so good, it made up for most of his forays into evening excess. Cue crazed rhinestone-crusted rodeo ruffles buckarooing across thigh-high frocks, anti-gravitational decolletage and three-dimensional metal roses, complete with lethal inch-long thorns, exploding out of the armpits of a pleated silk dress.Strip them off, however, and that dress was utterly wearable - as were quite a few of his other numbers - a stand-out was a beaded flesh-coloured number with hip-high slit that resembled Halston rather than harlot. Even those Dynasty chambermaid uniforms weren't beyond redemption: add a couple of inches, strip off a couple of miles of ruffle, and they're sexy party attire for Scognamiglio's confident, outgoing and growing band of fans. That said, it was easy to imagine Italian fashion's patron saint Anna Dello Russo looking sensational in them as they were. That's always the saving grace of a collection in my book.