Something Bold

The fall collection Christopher Bailey showed for Burberry Prorsum on Sunday was pretty and poetic, featuring the striking coats the house is known for and some distinctive accessories. Here, one of the former, worn with a giant bejeweled necklace and...

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Alberta Ferretti: The runway backdrop at Alberta Ferretti — an oversize Taotie mask motif taken from ancient Chinese bronzes — indicated that the designer would be taking her audience on an Asian jaunt. The first look out, however, a simple blue shift with a slight pouf at the back, sent the message that any glance eastward would be understated at most. The influence did pop up ever so slightly in her jade velvet frocks, alluringly accented with copper highlights in the drapes and folds. But the more obvious tale spun here was Ferretti's typical romantic one in which she shows her prowess with softly ruched and gathered gowns. This season, she offset them with structured coats, which hit the mark, and tent-shaped accordion-pleated dresses, which didn't. Her palette consisted of rich peacock-feather purples, magenta and greens, and her motifs included evocative swirling prints, the latter looking unmistakably westward in the direction of Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt.

Gianfranco Ferré: "The aesthetic lexicon is a sort of alphabet that evolves over time," began the show notes at Gianfranco Ferré, "assimilating new concepts, yet never wavering from its essence." What a loaded opening considering that creative director Lars Nilsson was dropped just a week ago for attempting to make a clean break, aesthetically speaking, from the house's heritage. According to Michela Piva, ceo of Ferré, the company relied on the opinions of key journalists and retailers to judge Nilsson's work, and she claimed their verdict was his efforts "didn't reflect Ferré's design codes." Riva also added that, "after five difficult months," the company settled on a design team to do the job.

And indeed, this fall outing captured the Ferré philosophy. There were his requisite architectural shapes — sweeping collars, sculpted sleeves; those billowy, white blouses, broad cozy knits, and nods to men's wear. The problem, however, was that, in the team's hands, the Ferré signatures became anemic, watered-down versions and most of the collection ended up feeling like Ferré Lite. Take, for instance, the excessive folds, flaps and straps sprouting from the shoulders of tops and frocks. And what exactly was one to make of the brass-knuckle jewelry? Of course, the collection was presumably scraped together in about 10 days, after Nilsson's abrupt departure. But in the end, a genuine Ferré closed the show as Mariacarla exited in a pair of pants topped with an organza blouse from the late designer's fall 1990 collection.
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