Sunday, February 28, 2010

About face...


For me to say that I'm not Frida Giannini's biggest fan is something of an understatement. Anyone who has read either my blog or my posts on the Fashion Spot (which date back to the dawn of her career) can tell you without a doubt that I haven't always been kind to our girl Frida. So imagine my complete and utter disbelief to find that this season I was kinda impressed by her collection. That's right, I said impressed, so bear with me.

My issue with Giannini is three-fold; from the beginning she completely ignored the well established identity and aesthetic of the house, in her zeal to erase the memory of her iconic predecessor her collections were erratic and lacking in any kind of consistency, and the simple-minded trends/cliches she worked with gave the impression that her clothes were nothing more than luxed-up fast fashion. On top of those things her most recent collections have been too reliant on special effects rather than good design. By that I mean she spent too much time decorating basic pieces that, despite their astronomical price-tags and overt displays of "luxury", didn't actually seem all that luxurious. All in all her collections have been, to me at least, too self conscious, like after four years she still doesn't have the confidence needed to put her own permanent stamp on the Gucci legacy. Well apparently we may all be in for a change.

Giannini's collection for Fall Winter 2010 is hands down the best she has done in her eight-season tenure at the house. Gone are the gimmicks, the overwrought details, and the frivolous, youth-obsessed, flash in the pan trends. In their place are beautiful, sexy, timeless looking clothes for beautiful, sexy, confident women, not girls, women. Everything about this collection, from the rich palette of warm neutrals in contrasting shades, to the longer skirt lengths, and even the non-tricked-out accessories seem geared towards a more grown up clientele who doesn't need to flaunt their fashion cred. And unlike in past seasons this collection placed more emphasis on daywear, with sharp tailoring a focal point as opposed to flirty day dresses and party gear. Most of the day looks were built around this season's pant; narrow, low on the waist but not ridiculously so, and flared just enough to spill over the foot. In the past Giannini's pants, with their low waist, tapered leg and overall boyish look really didn't appeal to me, so it was nice to see her working on a new shape, especially one that's really flattering. With the pants she paired understated coats or furs that were luxe without being obnoxious and simple silk camisoles or blouses. As an entire look the pants, slightly oversized coats and silk button downs worn partially open definitely recalled Tom Ford's very first Gucci collection as creative director back in 1995, not that that's a bad thing. Mixed in with the pant looks were some sheaths with slashes along a bias seam held closed with polished gold hardware. Those few looks brought to mind the white jersey gowns with gold hardware that Ford showed in his iconic F/W 1996 collection which, again, isn't a bad thing. There were also a few looser draped dresses in smudgey prints or solid black before the collection moved into evening.

Let's face it, evening has always been a big deal at Gucci and it probably always will. In my opinion eveningwear has never been Giannini's strong suit, she's always showed a bit more skill with sportswear and casual dresses. But this time around, though I didn't love every look she sent out for after dark, I liked that the looks were more mature, more hedonistic and more "Gucci" than anything she's shown before. Most of the looks mixed python patterned lace or mesh with paillettes and ostrich feathers on the sleeves. Paired with coordinating patterned lace tights and metallic python sandals it was a lot of look, but because all of them were cut above the knee they avoided that sharp left into tacky territory. Sure, not all of them worked but the looks that did were really beautiful, and kind of unusual too in their mix of textures. A black one with a plunging v-neck held up by a metal collar worn with a bolero in ombré feathers had a beautiful degrade effect going on, from the opaque paillettes at the top down to the sheer tights on bare flesh at the bottom. The look reminded me, though very vaguely, of the beaded dresses and marabou boleros Tom did back in '04. Another, a cognac long sleeved dress with copper paillettes fading from top to bottom was also really beautiful. The best thing about these looks is that they're a more extreme, grown up take on glamour than what Giannini is known for. You're not likely to see some unkempt hipper-than-thou wild child pulling these looks off, that's for sure.

I think that this collection is completely refreshing coming from Giannini. It's not relying on anything but quality clothing and good styling, which is what made Gucci a powerhouse to begin with. It takes a bit of maturity to hold back and let the clothes be the focal point instead of a theme or overdone details. Are these clothes anything new? No. Are they bound to shake fashion to it's core? Probably not. But that's okay. I am still pretty shocked by how much I like this, although I'm starting to think that maybe I shouldn't be. The fact is that a lot of this bares a resemblance to Tom Ford's work at the house, especially in his disco-loving early days. Looking at this I'm left wondering why Frida spent so many seasons trying in earnest to avoid the territory he mapped out, because while this doesn't have the same heady punch of Ford's work, it fits his Gucci blueprint very well. This woman seems to be the softer, less depraved sister of Ford's femme fatale. She may not have that same predatory sensuality that leaves a path of broken men in her wake, but I bet she's got a few of her own tricks up her ostrich feather sleeve. Here's hoping we'll get to see them.

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