Dolly Parton once said 'It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.' She could have been talking about Peter Dundas' Emilio Pucci, where exquisite fabrics and painstaking workmanship are allied to an aesthetic that is always hot and sexy, and occasionally runs aground into slutty. It's a dangerously choppy sea to navigate, that good-bad taste thing, but Dundas has had ample training working that formula to the nth degree. He cut his teeth at Cavalli and polished his craft at Ungaro: neither are exactly known for quiet and retiring.
For spring 2012, Dundas' inspiration was haute bohemia and Brigitte Bardot in 'Les Annees Gitanes' - for you and I, think Cher circa 'Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves'. That's not just a throw-away pun: the gypsy came in the skirts, the tramps were wearing them (if we may be so bold) and the thieving came from Dolce e Gabbana circa 1992. Well, in fashion they don't call it thieving, merely 'appropriation', but there was a whole lot of appropriating going on at Palazzo Pucci. The semi-transparent bloused micro-tops over expansive peasant skirts, the jangling gold jewellery and the darkened eyes all seemed straight out of D&G's Dolce Vita years - and while it could be argued that Dundas shares an aesthetic with the Italiano masters of Molto, it was often cut a little too close for comfort. Witness a double-breasted jacket sliced into a bodysuit, tucked into shorts and wrenched open to expose the model's saucy lace brassiere. That was sex incarnate, but it's a game Domenico and Stefano have been playing, and winning, for years now.
The little of the collection left after that naughty nineties redux played hard and fast with the Pucci looks Dundas has made his own. To be frank, it felt a little like a retreat - last season's busty frauleins, corseted to within an inch of their lives, were gone and forgotten under billowing Pucci-print kaftans and a few kinky-slinky dresses wrenched open across the stomach. You have to have a gut the size of a walnut to wear them anyhow, you may as well show off that attenuated midriff. Essentially, this collection was a re-run, not only of those very many nineties Dolce collections, but of the Greek beach babes that frolicked across Dundas' last spring collection. This time, granted they were frocked-up in something vaguely Spanish - half-a-dozen crosses, a bit too much kohl, a glance at Madonna's La Isla Bonita video - but it's exactly the same shtick.
Pay no attention to the garments on the catwalk: the fascinating thing to see is how adroitly Dundas can tinker with such basic, rudimentary elements of fashion - a short flashy frock, a fluttery bit of chiffon, some well-cut suits and a whole lot of sex - and get the fashion world into such a tizz about them. Did he show us anything new? Of course not. But no-one wants new from Pucci in this fashion conspiracy.