Glamour. Maybe I'm too young to remember it without the haze of preteen nostalgia. The way I figure, it came just before grunge - and that's where it pops up in the fashion dictionary too. It's also sits next to Gianni, and glitter, and gold, all of which are hallmarks of the house of Versace. They're not hallmarks we've seen much of since about 1992 (I was nine going on ten and obsessed with sequinned cocktail wear if I remember rightly),but back then Versace was king. It was costume historian James Laver who first talked about the twenty-year cycle in fashion - the idea that, given enough time, everything will fall back into favour. It's bang-on twenty years since we last saw medusa heads, baroque-n-roll prints and silk-lined towelling robes fluttering away from bronzed torsos on the Versace menswear catwalk. Ripe time for a revival.
Was that Donatella Versace's reasoning when pulling together this show, a hodgepodge collage of everything Versace stood for, stands for and will be remembered for in the annals of fashion? Or did she just go with her gut and do exactly what she felt was right for today? Whatever the equation, the answer was the same: Versace's look for Spring 2012 was all about Gianni's greatest hits. And it's probably Donatella's greatest hit to date too.
Sometimes, a collection just hits every nail on the head so square and true, it's difficult to summarise exactly why it's quite so perfect. With this one, however, the answer was simple: it had balls (and I don't mean the itsy-bitsy swimwear). It flew in the face of everything everyone else has proposed for spring, but at the same time was the very apotheosis of the Versace house style. It had swirling, exotic pattern meandering across billowing silk shirts as prints or picked out in gold studs freckling butter-soft suedes, set against brilliant, confident contrasts of colour - cerise with scarlet, acid yellow with emerald. Confidence was the word for everything that strutted out, from wide-shouldered brass-buttoned and bondage-buckled suits, ruched at the sleeves Miami Vice style; to terry-cloth robes and silk-print swimsuits; to leather track-pants and plasticised knits boldly worked into a signature 'V' across the chest, the Versace man as superhero.
The retro references were rife - pick your way through any glossy coffee-table Versace monograph and you'll find half-a-dozen landmark campaigns these boys could have swaggered out of. They looked like Richard Avedon's twenty-model pile-ups of the late eighties, Bruce Weber's colour-saturated nineties beefcake, or a stylised late-seventies Antonio Lopez sketch come to life. For many in the audience, there was a thrill of recognition, but for a new generation of Versace customers, these garments - so alien to our distress-down culture - must seem shockingly, thrilling different to anything on the market. Even to those entirely familiar with the Versace lexicon, the sheer bravado of this offering is potently seductive. Potent seduction: that was what Versace was always all about. Donatella's playing to the strengths of both herself and her house. Evidently, the woman's playing to win.