There was a palpable sense of restraint to this collection, and not just in the girdle-tight Mad Men frocks that made up the vast majority of outfits.
There are a few things you suspect Donatella Versace will never understand, no matter how hard she tries. Daywear is one. Minimalism is another. She isn't alone: her illustrious brother Gianni didn't get them either. Why then she chose to base her Autumn/Winter 2011 collection around them is therefore anyone's guess.
Never let it be said, however, that the Versace team does anything by halves. They opened their show with a pared-back black coat, slightly military in style and studded with about four dozen inch-thick gilt Medusa-head buttons. That's minimalism out of the window then. There was something great about it though, likewise the button-studded asymmetric day dress that followed, sliced away at the neck and cut high on the thigh in white and black. A few sported giant spirals of applique like enormous abstract blooms sliced out of an archive Versace scarf print, a decorative motif picked up in the venue's carpet where, honestly, it looked slightly more at home. Credit where credit's due, they looked better on post-show pictures than during their catwalk unveiling - hence will make great editorial - and on the looser tunic styles added much-needed graphic punch. They just looked brash on body-con day dresses, and often overpowering - seemingly the intention when jarring purple and green were thrown together, throttled with a matching fox collar. Mostly colour was muted, black dominating alongside rich liturgical purple, green and navy.
The coat shape was reiterated a number of times in wool, fur or a mix of the two and cinched with a wide hardware-studded belt. Once or twice it was neatly cleaved in half to form a wool or leather suit, a bit Jacqueline Onassis, a bit Cher from Clueless. Well, everyone's referencing the sixties and Gianni Versace was the star name of the early nineties, so that fits both time and house.
Overall, however, this didn't feel especially Versace - or very Donatella. There was a palpable sense of restraint to this collection, and not just in the girdle-tight Mad Men frocks that made up the vast majority of outfits. Everything felt stripped down as if under duress - you got the feeling Donatella would have been far happier if she let rip with those whirling acanthus leaves over everything, threw on four hundred more of those buttons and glitzed it all to the max.
Eveningwear was strong - it's Versace, it should be. A couple of November Rain-style evening dresses picked up on that continuing uncertainty over skirt lengths, but only managed to add to the confusion by looking great from both front and back. The stand-out however was a drop-dead simple crepe frock seemingly reconfigured from one of those militia coats, slit from floor to crotch and with buttoned flap pockets neatly cantilevered around the model's buttocks. That looked like something Gianni could have cooked up at his compass-cutting best, and it deserves every column-inch of the red-carpet exposure it will undoubtedly get.