A brand like Versus sits outside the current fashion conversation. As fashions on neighbouring runways spark debates about gender, androgyny and empowerment, with designers rehashing not only what it means to be a beautiful, stylish woman, but also what luxury means to a new generation, Versus trundles - or rather, given the heels at today’s show, stomps - on, pushing glamazon frocks, revealing a lot of leg and selling sex. The success of this collection depends how you rate a show’s relevance - if you offer points for nods to heritage or if you applaud innovation. On one hand, you could argue that this was perfectly on point, after a few years floating around under the direction of talented, if not fully committed designers - a season under J.W Anderson, and before that a run under Christopher Kane - Versus has a dedicated creative director, Anthony Vaccarello, who’s own aesthetic of slashed to the labia frocks and bust revealing tops is on point with Versace’s more is more aesthetic (or make than less is less when it comes to the quantity of fabric covering the body). Indeed, to draw on fashion criticism cliches, today’s show perfectly captured the DNA of the house and the spirit of the archive - from those golden medusa decorations, vaguely eighties party dresses and dark, twisted florals.
Many, because of Vaccarello’s age, will trot out lines about him bringing a ‘modern edge’ to Versus, or a ‘youthful spirit’. Sure, he’s interpreting the Versace archives with his own eyes, but youthful and current this is not. That’s the main criticism that can be levied at today’s show. Despite the toned, youthful bodies showing off the garments, and the plethora of honied flesh - buttocks, breasts, backs - on display, this collection wasn’t young at all. Those flowing gowns and mini leather coat dresses and bandeaus felt oddly out of step with how vibrant young women are dressing. In fact, it was oddly dated - reminiscent of a time where designer clothing made women look like objects rather than humans. Making Versus relevant for a younger generation doesn’t mean recruiting some live musicians, mixing in some denim and showing off a bit more flesh - to really make the label current, Vaccarello should consider how times have changed and what feels empowering for young women today. The girls on that runway need to look more vibrant, more alive, and more autonomous in their sensuality. Sex is easier, strength takes skill.