Marco Zanini's Rochas pushes buttons. There's something about his designs that resonate perfectly with the times - and, in fact, predict what is about to come. Maybe that's why those early collections drew frowns, scratched heads and even downright damnation from the press. It's difficult to be a pioneer after all. Trace back those variations on mid-century elegance that have proliferated this season, and you'll find their roots in Zannini's quietly revolutionary Rochas collections. He's evolved effortlessly, assuredly, over his three years at the house. And now, he's leading the pack.
For spring 2012, Zannini pushed the reset button - resetting our set-in-stone ideas and ideals of classic fifties chic, and twisting them almost imperceptibly into something we've never seen before. Rather than tearing down traditions, Zanini is a quiet revolutionary. He subverts from within. Witness the first exit of his Rochas collections: attenuated couture beehive in place, cat's eye sunglasses on, tiny purse and fluttering scarf clutched in hand. Zanini said he was attracted to a 'cinematic' idea of elegance. But exactly what cinema was this vision from? There was something part Hitchock, part Hollywood B-movie about his woman - and maybe he's been watching old cinema reels on the Roswell incident too. Was it coincidence that that sunglass-backcomb combo made his models resemble caricature couture aliens?
The twist didn't stop there. Zanini's idea this season seemed to be 'schlocky chic' - mundane, everyday pieces plucked from the stock-pile of 'wardrobe staples'. But somehow he twisted these into something extraordinary. It was in the strangeness of their proportion that Zannini's pieces found their beauty - the pumped-up sofa-satin of his boxy coats and slightly clumsy-looking suits, the sharply pointed breasts of his milkshake-shaded Bucol silk-twill swimsuits, the overly-stiff organza crafted into headscarves. Zanini's florals were blown up so big they looked like comedy cogs. His mirrored platform sandals elevated his models inches from the ground. His handbags were shrunk to postage-stamp sized - the mere idea of an accessory, a gesture rather than a physical item. When the 'It Bag' still rides high as a designer cash-cow, that's a pretty subversive statement. There's Zanini pushing those buttons again.
What was most striking about this collection, however, was how each and every piece Zanini created resonated with the audience - especially after a season filled with couture-alike rehashing of the decades and designs he was referencing. It felt exciting and interesting, and more than a little perverse. There was a frisson of shock to this schlock. These were clothes, in short, that you wanted to see again and again. For me, the measure of a designer's success is whether I want to see people sporting these garments in real life (or, at least, as close as fashion gets to real life): for 2012, I can think of nothing better than a warped world wearing nothing but Rochas. Bravo, Mr Zanini. Does anything else really need to be said?