It seems that every other designer has been glancing at the clean, crisp lines of the Bauhaus to inform their designs for spring 2012. Maybe there's something in the air that's uniting designers in a mean move towards rigourous, severe lines. Ornament is crime, or so that quote goes. Taking that into account, the last designer you'd ever expect to see quoting Bauhaus tennents is Roberto Cavalli, crowned king of the quintessentially Italian school of 'More is never enough.'
Cavalli's theme, however, was more complex than simple Bauhaus. His idea? Bauhaus meets Baroque - a contradiction in terms if ever there was one. The question Cavalli seemed to ask himself was how to fuse these two antithetical aesthetic movements, how to create a look that combined the precious surfaces of the old with the rigour of the new? Perhaps he pondered for weeks, philosophising and alchemysing his melding of these two different worlds. Somehow, I doubt it. But as soon as the first model hit the catwalk at the Cavalli show, that paradox made perfect sense. Witness a flapper dress as re-imagined by Paco Rabanne, slit and slat up the thigh and glistening with pailettes the size of thumbprints. Roberto Cavalli may do modern, but he simple cannot do minimal.
In a week that has been noted for its restraint, Cavalli decided to let rip, and his timing was bang-on. His glitter-soaked re-imagining of the Great Gatsby via Gattica stormed out with energy and conviction. And lightness, a new lightness, those flapper frocks sliced up with slithers of foliate-print chiffon that later tumbled into full-length gowns the skirts laddered with lace like saucy Edwardian Merry Widows. In Cavalli's mind, that was all very Italian, the richness of those sequin-strewn dresses a modern counterpart to the gold-leafed Renaissance cupolas of Florentine churches. Well, Cavalli didn't put it like that, but he isn't much for length - in words or in clothes.
Cavalli also isn't much for daywear, and the taut-shouldered tailoring here felt a little worked-out. In basic black it was just that - basic, something Cavalli felt he should put on his catwalk rather than something he really wanted to unleash. The unleashed part came when he ravaged those suits with print, bold Hawaiian textiles or wild leopard and tiger. The former also ended up prowling up and down a few more of those fluttery chiffon frocks, scrolled with gilt arabesques like those you-know-who scarves that seem to have been doing the mood-board rounds this Milan fashion week. Then again, they've always been as much Roberto as they were Gianni. Maybe that's why he did them better than everyone else.