milan fashion week: roberto cavalli
(images via ny mag)
these days, on the subject of roberto cavalli, it seems that there are two schools of thought. a few years ago (and most recently with his f/w 2010 collection), it seemed that the designer was finally moving away from his long-held fascination with animal prints and sexy things, trying to turn his label into something softer, romantic, and feminine in lieu of that—as i put it then—glamazon girl with a propensity for embracing the euro-trash side of life. but then…something happened. and as quickly as the prior movement was gradual, with his s/s 2011 collection, the designer suddenly snapped back into his sensuality parade, with subsequent shows (see f/w 2011 & s/s 2012) all falling in line with that which he had done so long before.
and now, it seems, we’re all divided on how we feel about it. i tend to be of the opinion that if anyone can do the look well, it’s mr. cavalli, and his f/w 2012 range exhibited at milan fashion week—if not breaking new ground, at least embraced the kind of flash, rock ‘n’ roll, and exotica the designer was long known for. he knows how to create beautiful clothes, but i wonder that maybe with the more refined, almost ghostly prettiness of a few years ago, he felt he was straying too far from what his core values were (and, incidentally, what his customers want). yet while there was plenty of bang and sizzle for fall, even if no one else saw it, i’ll swear there was something of that ethereal, floating girl in his collection (as the gown worn by daria strokous, second from top) that cropped up now and again. but this time she wore the faint traces of leopard print.
but to get back to that other strong opinion. there are a good number of those who appreciated the romantic streak that was becoming more apparent in mr. cavalli’s work and have since exhibited a great resistance at his retreat to his animal striped-and-spotted, kohl-lined eyes world. i can’t help but wonder if they’re the sort that just don’t prefer this sort of thing themselves—like maybe the same types that were so eager to dismiss that jazzy eighties streetwear blumarine recently sent sashaying down the catwalk—and are simply disappointed to see a designer with so much promise on their own aesthetic front deciding of his own free will to crawl back to that which they scoff at and dismiss. nevertheless, as i’ve said a lot quite recently, we need to try to judge these things on their own merits, being more open-minded to what they are (and what the customers want) than what we ourselves would readily set out on a buying spree for.
so with all of those things in mind, it seems that i’ve chortled on quite long enough. to the critics! “classic Cavalli,” proclaimed uk vogue, “glamorous and strong, lots of leather and lots of fur and at times both mimicking the other in some way or another. We had maxi fur ballgown skirts with sequin luxe T-shirts and feathered baseball caps all in one look, elbow-length gloves and little puffy skirts like knickerbockers on little halter dresses strewn with sequins and beads and more baseball caps to go with it all…Blazers had built up and peaked shoulders and ruffled dresses that moved with an impressive stealth and fluency tumbled in layers from empire lines, an elegant slice of flesh on show at their backs. While a baseball cap was the accessory up top, a box clutch was the arm candy of choice, and came just as leopard-y and tiger-y and wild as the main looks that accompanied them.”
of course, most reviews were full of the news that supermodel naomi campbell (top) walked the show. unfortunately, in a number of cases, it meant much space was devoted to it, with the likes of the telegraph only coming to point near the very end: “Cavalli’s latest collection was a new variation on his oft-revisited animal-print riff. Hand-painted Cavalli prints were transferred to high-hemmed mini puff-skirts, or reproduced in glittering crystal on long tiered maxi dresses and wide-cut trousers. The catwalk was bedecked with 39,000 roses arranged in tiger-print pattern, the models’ spike-heeled booties were furry leopard print, and even the sunglasses has flashes of crocodile and ostrich skin at their edges. Cavalli himself was particularly taken by a piscine reference: ‘Those stockings in fishnet. I love them, they are very sexy.’”
fortunately, some, like wwd, were strictly on-topic, reporting that “(a) degree of youth and able-bodied maintenance has always been implicit in Cavalli’s animal-printed va-va-voom. Usually it’s executed with a significant level of designer sophistication that indicates the clothes are in fact for grown-ups, who will need a sense of humor to appreciate the score of short, baby-doll bubble dresses, done in bright pink and green sequins with harness backs that opened the show. From there, the animalia — prints, furs and exotic skins — and sparkle stayed, while hemlines fell and proportions ballooned into boxy tops, long ball skirts and drop-waist tunics worn over flared pants. Perhaps an exotic riff on grungy glamour was intended in the sequined T-shirt paired with an awkward full-length fur skirt? Hard to tell.”
meanwhile, the iht's suzy menkes vocalized that naysayer perspective i was just describing, but with the kind of conviction that could almost convince me mr. cavalli had made the wrong move—that is, until i look at the clothes again, and remember just how much fun they all are. “From the 39,000 roses forming a tiger pattern on the runway,” she began, “to the finale led by Naomi Campbell, Roberto Cavalli’s show was a tour de force. Maybe that should be ‘force of nature,’ for what the designer described as ‘an Eden of femininity’ was an extraordinary confection of fur, feathers, skins and printed fabrics that created animal magic. That started with Mr. Cavalli leading his Alsatian dog Lupo around the runway. Then came the opening dresses: short, sexy, with ballooning skirts and the patterns that the designer created by hand, painting on canvas.”
"These early, perky dresses seemed familiar fashion fodder," she continued, "even if the mix of what looked like silver fox with silvered cloth created a sparkling effect. Even jockey caps were decked out with feathers. As the show went on, long dresses took over, making the body covering increasingly like the tiger flower bed: a re-creation of tiger patterns and fur prints — so it was almost impossible to tell what was nature and what an artificial creation. The craftsmanship in these pieces from head to toe was breathtaking. But, however lovely, it was a one-track show: the famous Cavalli animal prints. And, significantly, the eight stars at the Oscars who wore Mr. Cavalli’s seductive clothes, from Miley Cyrus through Leslie Mann to Bar Refaeli, did so only in black and white."
but the washington post was back on the ‘pro’ side, reflecting that the designer “struck a balance between the soft silhouette of full maxi skirts and dresses in flowing fabrics and the more structured look of a brocade mini-dress. As usual, animal motifs played a central role, be it in the form of a leopard print or an alligator necklace. Cavalli matched full dresses with tiered skirts with loose pajama pants, a coupling popular this season. Mixing materials, a mini-dress featured leather bodice reminiscent of armor, a look popular in Milan, that transitioned into a fur skirt. Mod leather caps finished many of the looks. Short sleeves and bare arms are in for next winter, but Cavalli provided a hedge against the cold: long leather gloves.”
and us vogue accurately pointed out that “Cavalli basically works in two modes—pastoral aristocratic bohemian splendor or Grand Guignol rock ‘n’ roll—and it was the latter that was on his fall 2012 runway, a riot of tiger stripes created from strategically placed flower beds…The whole effect made maximalism look as restrained as minimalism, but it seems somewhat redundant to be pointing this out…Fashion, for him, is about having fun, in the most exuberant, extravagant, and yes, excessive way you can, political correctness be damned. Who cares if that means looking as though at some point you should have said enough ten minutes ago? It helps, of course, that he fully utilizes exemplary, intricate craftsmanship to create his larger-than-life looks. In its way, Cavalli’s Italian artisanal craft, with its time-honored heritage, can be a pretty defiant gesture against the bad times too.”
finally, style chortled that “(b)efore his show, Roberto Cavalli paraded around the catwalk with Lupo, his German shepherd. It was an outlandish image, but not as outlandish as the tiger pattern on the catwalk (which was composed of 40,000 flowers). And not nearly as outlandish as the clothes that subsequently made their way through the flowers. In its more-is-never-enough excess, this was the most impeccably styled, luxurious collection Cavalli has ever shown. But it also mastered the power of illusion to achieve a de trop, Fellini-esque grandeur. So when Naomi Campbell sailed down the catwalk barely harnessed into a waterfall of purple sequins, it seemed like the only appropriate full stop to a show that had turned nature on its head, painting python with big cat motifs, printing mink with python, turning glossy ponyskin into scaly croc, creating, in other words, an extraordinary new menagerie, one worthy of Nero himself.”
"The artisanship was such that the clothes needed to be seen close up," they summed up, "and better still, felt. The bubble skirts that opened the show, for example, were made up of fur that was pieced together like feathers. They were shown with T-shirts so densely beaded they could have been a new kind of reptile skin…There were a couple of other major silhouettes. The first consisted of extremely feminine tiers of mousseline. (One dress seemed to re-create a crocodile skin in glitteringly glazed scales, but who would be crazy enough to dare such an eyeball-straining piece of embroidery? Need we ask?) The second was a rock ‘n’ roll dandy-tailored suit, with peaked shoulders and long, flared legs. Every outfit was a book—or at least a movie. Cavalli has created his own fashion vocabulary. Sometimes he whispers it, other times he screams. Today’s show was one long, sustained holler of unholy glee. He was exuding it backstage, clearly happiest when he’s making some noise."
(see the full show video here)