Gucci isn't fashion, it's a formula. That's not a criticism, more an explanation of the way Frida Giannini can filter any inspiration through the Gucci machine, allowing her the creative liberty to leap from blowsy, colour-saturated Newton heroines, to twenties flappers, to velvet-swathed Gothic maidens within the blink of an eye. Or at least the switch of a season.
Those Gothic maids are, of course, a reference to Giannini's offerings for Autumn/Winter 2012, sooty-eyed, dark and ethereal, seemingly a world away from the 'Hard Deco' of spring. In actual fact, there was plenty of crossover - both had an air of the seventies without diving into unabashed retro entirely. That was the cornerstone of the Gucci revival back in the nineties: it's part of that press release favourite, 'designer DNA', meaning Frida can filter whatever she likes through the Gucci 'house codes' (another choice phrase for pressing peppering) and have it come out looking quintessentially on-brand.
Taking that into account, Autumn's Gucci show wasn't really Gothic - that was just a convenient watchword for the press to grab at when seeing capes, black chiffon and lashings of velvet. There was absolutely nothing medieval about the cut, for instance, knee-length pencil skirts, billowing chiffon skirts, trousers flared or full across the thigh and tucked into knee-high leather boots Erich von Stroheim-style. Speaking of old Hollywood, there were a few cocktaily, cock-feather-covered dresses at the end that Marlene Dietrich would have loved in Shanghai Express. Maybe they were an ode to Edgar Allen Poe? Or maybe Giannini just has her eye on the red carpet as the Oscars season cometh.
This collection had plenty of the sensuality lamentably absent from Giannini's spring excursion, and that marks her best work. There was a luscious tactility to the jacquards, astrakhan and all that touchy-feely velvet, an urge to crush the fabrics between your fingers and feel their weight. That's one thing that always translates well to retail. There was also a lot more ambition and variety to the shapes, which oscillated from full-length pleated and ruffled chiffons to graphic trouser suits and oversized overcoats. Something for everyone and the sort of thing that can make a collection look messy and unfocused, but the palette - burgundy, rich ecclesiastical purple, a burnt sulphur yellow, tonnes of black and shot of poison green - held it together. Some of the more Pre-Raphaelite evening gowns went off the Renaissance Fair deep-end (they looked more Camden Market than Milanese chic), but the luxury quotient always felt sky-high. And that's what the Gucci look boils down to: unapologetic luxury. Whatever inspiration she tacks on, it's what Giannini is really selling, season in and season out.