“Change the customer, not the collection!” That’s what Roberto Cavalli told himself eleven years ago when naysayers laughed that no one would be interested in the menswear range he was launching. Who’s laughing now? And laughing. And laughing some more. Cavalli was in a boisterous mood today as he plugged a collection that was, he declared, “designed completely by me.” This follows some seasons when his son Daniele was at the helm, but Roberto now seemed very much of the mind that father knows best. Before the show, a short film by L.A. director Nicolas Randall played, in which a Cavalli man seemed to pass through fire for a phoenixlike rebirth. A little personal symbolism, perhaps?
Given that, you might have hoped for an expression of purest Cavalli, with his signature union of Florentine artisanship and gilded rock ‘n’ roll. On the whole, your hopes would not have been dashed. The hand-tooled leathers and hybrid animal prints (herringbone artfully transforming into zebra) were on parade. So was classically lean tailoring, like the impressive military coat that opened the show. A bitsy rabbit fur coat and trousers with safety-pinned seams smeared in gold were novel nods to the rock-star wardrobe.
Still, there was a niggling sense that Cavalli hadn’t quite pulled this one out of the bag. He’s always fancied himself as an artist, and he used his own photos to create his prints. Today’s staging was supposed to suggest an artist’s atelier—worn, paint-spattered jeans
featured as an additional cue—and the photographer Ruvan Wijesooriya busily interacted with the models on the catwalk in an effort to create an art “happening.” But ultimately, all that action underscored the longtime Cavalli asset that was absent: romance. The morphing leather jacket with the huge gilded ruffle wasn’t enough to fill the gap.