Milan Fashion Week : wrought iron staircase for Alberta Ferretti

Gucci: From Sexy to Sensual

What! No more sex in the saddle or rocking through the night? Just love in the afternoon, hair flowing loose, a cuddling velvet cape, a moss green dress, wispy black chiffon shaded with embroidery and the blue green of peacock feathers?

Frida Giannini did a volte face at Gucci on Wednesday, from sexy to sensual, making a bold and beautiful start to the Milan winter 2012 season.

Reaching back to the Art Nouveau period, with its “greenery yallery” colors, its wild orchid patterns and its wistful decadence — but bouncing that against a previous Art Nouveau revival in the 1970s — this Gucci show had as much depth and variety in the decorative clothes as in the music, which ranged from light romance to grand opera.

“Romantic — the 19th century, looking at tapestries, playing with transparency — and a lot of the 1970s,” said an emotional Ms. Giannini backstage.

She might also have added to her definition of an androgynous Bohemia — “clothes not handbags” — for the show was as light on its fetish accessory as it was rich in jewelry. It dangled in twinkling drops from ears or sat on the crown of the head, buried like a treasure in a bale of straw.

Last season Ms. Giannini riffed on Art Deco, but that stiff rendition of an earlier era did not seem to have much relevance to the Gucci aesthetic.

The idea of bringing the lush romance of the fin de siècle worked so much better. The artistic research and its elegant application went back to the original idea of a male-female crossover in an era when it suggested daring perversity.

Velvet suits with low-crotch pants never looked like costume party clothes. Nor did long dresses — half-flower child, half-Edwardian maiden — presented in off-shades of green or mingled with blue, and with orchid prints or made from peacock feathers.

Black was the shadow cast over flesh, as the designer revived the 1970s peasant look with the laced-up blouse of the Yves Saint Laurent period. But as windows on the body are now so familiar, there was no sense of daring or sauciness. Instead all was sweet and soft, as though Ms. Giannini had let loose her womanly side.

Alberta Ferretti , another woman designer, went the opposite route. She toughened up from her signature delicate prettiness. The backdrop of a wrought iron staircase and a palazzo window looking out from beyond the mosaic catwalk summed up the story: delicacy with strength.

The fashion conversion was to turn those iron curlicues from another era into lacy dresses for modern times.

Add an ankle-length pinstriped mannish coat and inserts of supple leather and the hard/soft, feminine/masculine message came through beautifully.

“I wanted a very poetic woman — but it is important that she has a strong personality,” said Ms. Ferretti.

She used monochrome colors, a lot of black, occasionally with a dab of scarlet and a few fuchsia dresses with the delicate decoration that is a feature of the house.

Significantly, the designer, known for airy red carpet dresses, also focused on tailoring — but however strict the lines they were cut on a curve.

This man/woman thing is not exactly new to fashion. But there was something convincing and compelling about the Ferretti iron lady: Her dresses so delicately wrought, but her attitude steely.

from nytimes.com

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