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“It’s a problem for me being a designer of clothes,” said Peter Dundas backstage after his second outing as creative director of Roberto Cavalli. “Because fundamentally I don’t like them. I want to see the body.”
Full marks for honesty of the week. In fact, there were lots of clothes on the Roberto Cavalli catwalk, and many of them very good. After the faltering proposition of his debut SS16 collection, which saw looks slashed to the groin, tie-dyes and oversized leathers in a bid to court the youngest of women, this was a return to the more familiar Cavalli look. Hardly more mature, really, but maximal in its immodesty. For AW16, Dundas had taken “divine decadence” as his theme and his looks were whip-thin, snake-hipped, fully transparent and floor-sweeping, the sort of stuff the Cavalli woman depends upon to make an impression.
Dundas’s floor-length coats were exotic and embroidered, in lush velvets, denim and intarsia fur, which was cut into chevrons and arranged into starry designs. There were jazzy patchworked snakeskins. The models wore high, stacked platform boots to better emphasise the lithe, long line. Dundas had tempered the more frou-frou elements of Cavalli past and shaved them down, skirt lengths pooled to the floor but the volume was held in check.
“I was looking at the 1940s silhouette and the 1960s,” said Dundas, his own eyes still smeared with glittery black liner backstage. The keyhole necklines on his long-sleeve gowns in printed scarf silks plunged to the navel, but decorously so. His musical tastes could be found in the Jimi Hendrix-style military jackets all covered in glittery metallic frogging and trailing skinny, bead-fringed scarves. His plummy rich velvets, cord trousers and boho-embroideries recalled the Biba-era beatniks who once stomped Kensington High Street. There were hints of the artists Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt in the shimmery metallics
For sure, Roberto Cavalli is an acquired taste. So much richesse can be strong meat to digest. But with the 1970s trend currently turned up to 11, it was right that Cavalli, the house of rock’n’roll chic, should be mining that heritage. Dundas can do this blindfolded — and still bring with it a little of his astro-hippy charm.
Six months after his debut, Dundas seemed more comfortable in his new environment. He’s been getting to know the “amazing” ateliers and indulging his taste for maxi-decorative design, albeit with a steady hand. And it worked. “The embroideries were like my Christmas present to myself,” he grinned.