With revving on the soundtrack and a darkened venue glittering like a highly-polished chassis, Donatella Versace laid out her biker chic credentials for all to see. For Autumn/Winter 2010, motorcycles got her gears grinding - they are fast, shiny, expensive and usually straddled with leather. Sounds just like the Versace woman we know and love.
This was, however, something of a change of pace - after last season's rollercoaster collection of vibrant, clashing colour, intense print and an unabashed return to the archive, Donatella and her design team strove to rewrite the script. The mid-calf skirts, albeit tempered with zips, are amongst the first to appear on a Versace catwalk, likewise the focus on fine, clinging knits and on trousers that are cut slim but not suctioned tight against the body. The colours were slightly subdued too - grey, black and a somewhat subdued purplish-blue dominated, with bright flashes of dirty yellow, tomato and a single evening gown in a turquoise so bright it vibrated.
Some things never change - inevitably, the Versace girl was still at her most fun after dark. This was when Donatella got to work slicing and dicing metallic patent calfskin into firm, focussed geometric frocks. She jigsawed together shards of reflective leather into tight mini-dresses, zippered from hem to breast (and sometimes along the erogenous zones in-between) and with bondage straps of topstitched and padded leather criss-crossing over a bared back. For the trademark floor-length finale, she simply plonked that highly-polished carapace over billowing silk chiffon frocks to tether the free-flowing fabric to the female form.
Frankly, after her virtuoso display for Spring/Summer 2010, it was always going to be difficult to come up with a second act. Donatella gave it her best shot - this season, that Versace look wasn't as bright, as tight, or indeed, quite as right. Those evening dresses were dynamite, and some of the daywear pulsed with the high-octane energy we have come to expect - and even demand - from Versace. The motocross-detail tailoring, sometimes frothing with poster-paint bright fur, was great, as was a single-sleeve cable-knit sweater slashed and layered over a mini-skirt in that mirror-shine leather - not sure it qualifies as daywear, but it was brilliant. A heavily-embellished macrame dress, studded with rings and woven with chains in shades of cyan, magenta and black, looked starling and refreshing, especially alongside those much-repeated block-coloured bonded jersey dresses. They looked commercial and desirable, but it felt like we saw them one too many times.