Eric Wilson's Front Row Diary: From Versace to Pucci, Italian Fashion Houses Show Signs of a Renaissance

Photo: Venturelli/WireImage

Donatella Versace returned her focus to power looks. Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta explored the structure of strict dresses through a prism with remarkable results. And Peter Dundas dove deep into the glittering terrain of crystals and gold for his fall collection for Emilio Pucci.

When designers say they are returning to their roots, it is often a sign that they have run out of ideas, but the strong collections shown in Milan over the weekend suggest a more powerful revitalization of Italian fashion is underway. Some of their messages were so intensely robust that they nearly overwhelmed us, the prime example being Roberto Cavalli, whose show included water and fire effects (pictured, above). In a dark black tent, models walked around a circular pool enclosed in a ring of fire, the heat making some guests feel as if they were being barbecued. Flames licked up his black evening dresses, either as realistic photo prints or red embroidered fringe that flickered as the models walked, which called to mind Katniss Everdeen’s coming-out dress in Hunger Games so vividly that it would not have been surprising had Cinna taken a bow.

There was a hint of a military influence in the gold buttons that decorated the Versace collection, also with a few sharply tailored power suits among the slim bias cut dresses adding to the overall impact of strength. And Pucci’s slinky styles were offered in unusual variations, including studded paisley swirls, a knit poncho, lean pantsuits in crimson or green velvet and loden vests trimmed with fur. Throughout the fall season, statement coats and colorful shearlings and fur have been major trends, and some of the best examples have come from Milan – including memorable ones from Alessandra Facchinetti at Tod’s, her black patent peacoat lined in white mink being a standout, and the quirky color combinations at Marni in whimsical stripes and wild spots.

At Bottega Veneta, Maier started with an apricot shearling wrap, but his real message was about bringing new treatments of color to the snugly fitted dresses, with fractured insets of color, some appearing in the folds of neat pleats, that reflected his mood for lightness.

Pictured, from left to right: Runway shows at Versace, Pucci, and Bottega Veneta.

Imaxtree (2); Catwalking/Getty Images

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