Francesco Scognamiglio seems like a new (and tongue-twisting) name on the Milan schedule, but as his latest show proudly stated, he's been in the business under his own name for ten years, albeit under the radar of most of the fashion press. As with so many others, it was one Lady Gaga who pulled his name into the spotlight - his show tonight closed with a face-framing, thigh-baring dress created especially for her, and the benches were packed with influential international fashion press.
But what is Scognamiglio's style? That's the tricky question. Gaga seems to have chosen the right man, as his creations veer towards theatrics rather than workaday. Example: bubbly organza frocks with leg-of-mutton sleeves bigger than an armchair; dresses crafted from layers of petals, cut-away to expose bare breasts; and a gilded eagle was strapped as a muzzle over a model's mouth. Okay, that was three examples, but hopefully you get the point. Even when Scognamiglio did simple, it was rather complex: a Bianca Jagger-esque white trousersuit pushed arms through piecrust slits at the front, rather than the conventional sleeve exit, and a short buttoned-up black dress was accessorised with a Gothic feather headpiece like a Victorian funeral mare.
The theme was the opulence of Versailles' opera - but there was something far more grandiose about this offering. It reminded me of those Württemberg princes that saw Versailles and tried to build their own, far more extravagant, versions. At the same time, Scognamiglio is quintessentially Italian, coming from the Rome Alta Moda world with all the overblown baroque maximalism that engenders. As an exercise in wanton, exuberant excess, it was unparalleled - the only worry was with Scognamiglio's taste-level, and the fact that it all seemed to be done with a completely straight face and proposed as genuine high fashion. In this day and age, there's slightly unsettling about any designer who can be that oblivious.