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Review: Versace’s twist on grunge has color, character and safety pins galore

Review: Versace’s twist on grunge has color, character and safety pins galore
Looks from the fall and winter 2019 Versace women's collection, presented on Feb. 22 during Milan Fashion Week. (Miguel Medina / AFP/Getty Images)

If Moschino’s Thursday-night runway show here was an homage to the game-show genre, then Versace’s, which wrapped the Friday slate of shows, was more like a “Portlandia” sketch in which a high-end Italian label blows into the Pacific Northwest, co-opts its grungy thrift-store style, and turns an aesthetic rooted in anti-consumerism into a best-selling collection of luxury clothes.

The only difference is that in the case of Versace’s grunge-themed fall and winter 2019 collection, the “Portlandia” parody was wholly unintentional.

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Starting with a giant safety pin stuck in the runway, ending with supermodel Stephanie Seymour returning to the catwalk (making for the second high-profile call-back to the ’90s catwalk in as many days thanks to Max Mara) and accompanied by Nirvana on the soundtrack, the runway show was filled with Versace’s go-for-baroque take on secondhand style in a color palette that popped with lime greens, acid yellows and bubblegum pink.

There were slouchy cashmere sweaters with ragged hems, one-shouldered dresses were sliced (some vertically from clavicle to waist, others angling horizontally across the belt line) and held together with Versace-logo safety pins, bondage straps were crafted out of silk and mixed with colorful tweeds or layered over turtlenecks, and lace-edged slip dresses were worn under motorcycle jackets.

One of the standout prints was a Barocco-style V (that at first glance could be mistaken for a gussied up barbed-wire pattern) that appeared on a handful of pieces including silk skirts, chunky double-breasted menswear-inspired blazers and coats with faux-fur trimmed collars.

Looks from the fall and winter 2019 grunge-themed Versace women's collection.
Looks from the fall and winter 2019 grunge-themed Versace women's collection. (Matteo Bazzi / EPA/Shutterstock, left, and Miguel Medina / AFP/Getty Images)

Even the ’90s version of Donatella Versace popped up on the runway — sort of — by way of a Richard Avedon photo (taken Feb. 3, 1995, in the photographer’s New York studio, according to the post-show notes) that was printed on T-shirts.

Although most of the collection seemed geared toward a very specific customer (we’d love to see that Venn diagram), the three looks that closed the show had a more universal appeal: black, body-con dresses with gold chains and buckle hardware dialed down to the bare minimum; they wouldn’t look out of place on the Hollywood red carpet — particularly Seymour’s black crystal mesh gown.

The show also introduced something else destined to have wider appeal: a new handbag line. Easily identifiable by the Barocco V hardware, it’s called the Virtus, named after the Roman deity that symbolizes strength, courage and character.

Appropriate, since — love it or hate it — the one thing this runway collection certainly did not lack was character.

From left, a T-shirt with a Richard Avedon photo of Donatella Versace, a barbed-wire pattern found throughout the collection, and the surprise show-closer: supermodel Stephanie Seymour.
From left, a T-shirt with a Richard Avedon photo of Donatella Versace, a barbed-wire pattern found throughout the collection, and the surprise show-closer: supermodel Stephanie Seymour. (Luca Bruno / Associated Press, Matteo Bazzi / EPA/Shutterstock, Miguel Medina / AFP/Getty Images)
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