Milan Fashion Week: Gucci autumn/winter 2012
With specialists predicting Milan's sales are to nosedive this year, Frida Giannini delivers a dark but still glamorous collection for Gucci.
This is set to be a gloomy year for Italian fashion - analysts suggest sales will decline by 5.2 per cent in 2012 - and Gucci's opening show today captured that mood perfectly.
"A dark glamour", is how Frida Giannini, Gucci's designer-in-chief described the collection she hopes women will yearn for next winter. In roughly-tied back Pre-Raphaelite hair, morbidly heavy make-up and deathly, ripe-red lipstick her models strode through the company's velvet-benched fashion amphitheatre dressed as broodily Romantic anti-heroines: even the large-print and jacquard florals were glummed up by placement on a black background.
For her day-wear section there were swathes of protectively flamboyant layering in fur, William Morris-ish flock-effect velvet florals in plummy red, black, and dark green, plus treated furs and shearling. The overcoats, worn on top of velvet jackets, ruffled chiffon blouses and black semi-sheer dresses were protectively enveloping - rich women's armour - as were the smattering of wide-legged trousers amongst the sexily back-split skirts.
Giannini is a keen horsewoman, and used those Morris style reliefs in wide-at-the-thigh jodphur trousers worn on flat-heeled boots and sharply cut riding jackets accessorised with stirrup-clasped bags looped across the wrist.
Glinting coloured crystals and the sequin-flashes on the finale section of gothic-goddess ruffled, pleated, ankle-skimming evening gowns apart, the most colourful moment was a plunging, green satin-shiny leopard print dress. Yet as Giannini emphasised herself, even when the mood is dark, extravagant, opulent glamour is Gucci's stock-in-trade: hence the dramatic dresses of iridescent feathers and the chiffon inlaid with mink.
Before the show, paparazzi clustered most determinedly in front of the celebrity front-row guests from China, suggesting that Gucci is pitching as hard as possible for that nation's status-hungry, newly-wealthy consumers. Many of the other 71 fashion companies showing in Milan this week will follow the same strategy, in search of insulation from challenges currently afflicting Europe.
Speaking as Milan Fashion Week began, Mario Boselli of the city's fashion syndicate said: "Our fear is to see again what happened between 2008 and 2009, when fashion sales dropped by 15 per cent." He added: "This time it shouldn't be as bad, because brands have slimmed down their operations and expanded in emerging countries."
Somewhere in the world, hope Italy's fashion barons, there will always be women who hanker for this high-level luxury and who are able to pay for it.