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Experimental feature

Sometimes at the shows, things go smoothly. Other times, not so much. Versace was a case of the former, with a new sense of chutzpah in its step. Its venue was a colour box, like that of artist James Turrell or the video for Drake’s Hotline Bling. Models strode out following a complex grid like they’d been drilled by the marine corps. The clothes were slick and sellable: MA1 jackets, tracksuits, single-breasted tailoring, double-breasted coats.

It’s a continuing upward trajectory for Versace, which has fresh confidence in its design and attitude. The theme here was space, astronomy etc. It made for some nice styling tricks, as well as an appearance of a classic Versace astrology print on a silk shirt from Gianni’s days. What matters here is the work of his younger sister, Donatella. She has mastered how to grab her family name and push it forwards, allowing this once listless house to be in profit, and preparing itself for an upcoming IPO.

Across town at Philipp Plein, much was promised. There’d be a show, then a party. A live performance was announced by Lil Wayne. And so the show began. A conductor took to a rostrum in the centre of the catwalk and started waving is baton, seemingly at no one. Music started, and soon an orchestra was revealed from behind a scrim. There were ramps all around him, and skateboarders and BMX riders did jumps. People up and down the catwalk talked into headsets: this was clearly a tightly run, well rehearsed operation.

A DJ started playing, and out came Lil Wayne. In the crowd, a few people reacted, but most people stayed schtum. No hollering, no screeching. Look, we’ve had a hard day. We’re hungry. We’re here for work. You want us to have an actual reaction? Lil Wayne is one of the most important recording artists of the 21st century. He tried to get some response from the crowd, but most were too busy holding up their iPhones to get a picture for their Instagram. “This shit is whack,” he said into the microphone, almost bent double, before he’d even started. “Are you serious?”

Afraid so. He tried to start the track, but he had no interest in performing to a room with no life. After a few lines he gave up. As he walked out, he gave the audience the finger. In the middle of the catwalk, the conductor was still at it. Presumably it was meant to be some fusion of classical with hip hop. Maybe it was for the best that Lil Wayne walked out. As a gesture, it felt radical and defiant. Good on him if things aren’t how they should be (memo to Lil Wayne’s manager: Maybe turn down requests from fashion brands). The problem was, in this pre-planned world of staged rebellion, there was no allowance for actual anarchy. The conductor had to keep conducting, the orchestra playing, even though for the next few minutes the catwalk was empty.

Oh well. Models soon appeared and what surprised was the politeness of the clothing. It was clear to see why this stuff shifts in such mammoth amounts. Black leather bikerswith quilted sleeves. Black parkas with fur trim collars. Black sweatshirts with superhero logos. A track by Justin Bieber started playing, and the guy being projected on the catwalk suddenly made sense. Plein is for men who want to think themselves a twentysomething kid with the world at their feet. At least the models did as they were told. At the end, Plein did a circuit of the catwalk. No sign of Lil Wayne. The business brains were in the house. The talent had left the building.

For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com

Photographs: Catwalking.com

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