In this climate - in fact, in any climate - it takes chutzpah to put clothes like this down the runway.
After a few days of hard-bitten, back-to-basics shows, it was an odd experience to walk into the Gucci showroom - all smoked mirrors, shag carpeting and polished bronze like an uptown, upmarket brothel circa 1976. And not to be outdone by decor, the A/W 2010 Gucci collection Frida Giannini showed had absolutely nothing to do with hard times - or indeed, hard work (on the wearer's behalf, at least). It was without a doubt the most Italian collection we have seen to date - Dolce e Gabbana is a possible exception, but then again their collection was Sicilian rather than Italian, and both visually and verbally Sicilians and Italians speak a very different language. Giannini's Gucci wasn't povera in the slightest: it was super-polished high-gloss jet-set, evoking all the flashy razzmatazz of Ragazzi shoehorned into their Sunday best in late seventies Capri. The opening outfits, in every shade of thick, creamy beige from cognac through buttermilk, offset with crocodile bags and shaded aviator spectacles, set the moneyed tone. Cashmere turtlenecks clinging to toned torsos, neat blazers or car-coats hugging shoulders and tight white chinos or butter-soft suede trousers cleaved to buttocks above glossy chelsea boots or bare ankles shoved into, yes, gilt-trussed patent Gucci loafers. None of it felt very wintry - a virgin white shearling bomber hardly counts as a cover-up - but that hardly matters when the only chill these clothes will be exposed to is over-zealous air-conditioning in a five-star hotel Those skinny silhouettes were marginally more workaday in slate blue, albeit with the dandyish touch of a buckle-print Gucci scarf draped nonchalantly around the neck - the daywear of a Portofino playboy heir with a cushy role in his father's very successful fashion house, perhaps? Nevertheless, given the molto Italiano mood of the collection, it is ironic that much was redolent of the American Tom Ford's time at Gucci in the nineties - more of that retro retro, seventies-via-nineties shtick. But that's no bad thing: just as the triple-stripe webbing strap and snaffled loafer scream Gucci, so Ford's powerful tenure at the house (defining the aesthetic of the epoch, rather than just this house) is a vital part of Gucci's heritage. Those buckled silk-jersey cut-out frocks for spring indicated Giannini was ready to tackle the good Ford almighty, and this collection was another subtle homage to the man's inestimable talent. Look at her twist on next season's handknits - Navajo patterns inspired not by Gucci's Sardinia, but by Ford's Santa Fe stomping-ground, while iridescent tuxedo jackets in shades of bordeaux, navy and shimmering bronze were a straight quote from Ford's Studio 54 collection. It looked fantastic second time around, with just enough tweaks to the silhouette (tighter shoulders, higher buttoning and those skinny skinny trews) to make it feel au courant. In this climate - in fact, in any climate - it takes chutzpah to put clothes like this down the runway, not least the crazed luxury of a leopard-pelt blazer for day. It also takes real skill to make them work, both first and second time, which Giannini undoubtedly did. Getting a grip on the Gucci vibe has taken her a while, and there are still a few misfires (those evening jackets, for example, while superbly executed as individual pieces, somehow didn't strike quite the right note in this show), but this collection was another step forward in understanding both the house, the history and the customer. All of which should be satisfied.