Frida Giannini evidently got the message about fashion's current notion for paring back, cutting down and simplifying, judging from her latest efforts for Gucci, but at the same time, you couldn't help but feel maybe she didn't quite understand what the fuss was all about. Ostentation versus minimalism is the story of the season, but most designers take a side and battle it out to the bitter end. Giannini took a different route, collaborating with each side, doubling back on her promises and, ultimately, betraying both. Hence her Autumn/Winter 2010 was an up-and-down, and indeed hit and miss experience.
It's to Giannini's credit that she can do both scaled-back austerity and pile-it-to-the-rafters extravagance adroitly - we saw both in this show, often side-by-side and sometimes meshed together. The former came through in outerwear: slender, perfectly straight coats, and chunkier hip-length khaki numbers with bracelet-length sleeves, wide lapels, and swinging martingale in back. Best was a dead-white trench with shrunken storm-flaps, and a beige caban with angular shoulderblades - both without fastenings, fuss, or any extraneous detail besides topstitching.
It was a salutary effort - Giannini knows plenty about cut and proportion, and understands that now is the time for our palettes to be cleansed and our wardrobes uncluttered. The razzmatazz was maybe a way to counter all that aseptic cleanliness - pulling her palette of caramel-beige, cappuccino-brown, black, white and red fox burgundy from the furs she used was a genius touch. But soon, fur began to froth, ostrich and crocodile began to pucker those clear surfaces, and indeed the glitter began to sparkle - we knew which side her heart was really on. After trying to sober up throughout this show, it was in the evening that Giannini truly fell off the bandwagon. Kudos to her, the sequin-strewn silk-tulle dresses with overblown fuzzy sleeves and snakeskin-patterned stockings were superbly executed - but they just didn't feel right for today.
Ironically, it was when Giannini clashed the two opposing aesthetics that the collection worked. Her first evening look - a simple silk coat, lapels lopped off, tossed over a feather-frothed skirt and filmy top - had a slouchy ease any woman would wish to emulate. When her furs were yoked high in severe leather, or pelt restrained to just the sleeves, these too had a contemporary feel of stepped-down, quiet luxe. But as a whole this collection ended up feeling like Giannini was treading water, neither stripping away completely nor entirely abandoning herself to wild excess. Middle of the road just won't cut it. She needs to a pick and side, stake her claim, and work the magic.