Divine Decadence. An ode to the louche, lean and sinuous women of the Art Nouveau, fused with the attitude of today. Peter Dundas looks to absolute femininity incarnate to inspire his fall/winter 2016 Robert Cavalli collection. His muse is the free-spirited, wilful Cavalli woman, her love of luxury, her sensuality and her wardrobe.
The collection takes its cue from glam rock - and the often-overlooked fact that ‘glam’ is an abbreviation of ‘glamour’, an essential attribute of the Cavalli girl. Inspired by the hedonism of the late sixties, when fashion first began to revive the naturalistic curvilinear lines of the Art Nouveau, graphics mix imagery from Gustav Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha and the album art of Led Zeppelin. The fusion of Belle Epoque with rock is the root of this Roberto Cavalli collection.
Silhouettes are whiplash slender like an Art Nouveau flourish, shoulders narrow and sleeves full, a hint of Janis Joplin fusing with serpentine Edwardiana. This sylphlike line is translated from slender gowns through to day, in attenuated maxi-coats and willowy jeans or trousers.
Embroideries underscore a pagan inspiration, drawing on the work of René Lalique, the gilded canvasses of Klimt and ritualistic ornamentation, like mythological celebrations of nature and its gifts. The motifs are tinged with early twentieth-century mysticism, the elegant occult of Aleister Crowley, and the artfully reimagined historical attire of Theda Bara in her Hollywood epics. Other embroideries draw on hussar frogging, swirling across tailored horseman’s jackets and soft evening proposals. Lines are blurred – male with female, day with evening, historicism with styles of today.
Colours are rich, scarab nuances of petrol blue, purple haze, forest green, absinthe, and chartreuse. They are infused with brilliant flashes of burnished gold, lavender and robin’s egg blue.
Patchwork is a key technique, keying surfaces with a sumptuous texture. Handbags are patched and embroidered, while platform shoes hint at glam rock with glitter and snake intarsia patterns. Lacquered snake is used to recreate reptile designs, while intarsia patchworks in mink and velvet invent symbolistic astrological designs for nocturnal adventuresses. The signature Cavalli big-cat print this season is tiger, cloaking the Cavalli woman like a high priestess.
Evening spells nights in lunar white satin, cut clinging and close, platinum-toned like Jean Harlow, dripping with crystal dazzle. Skin is suggested through panels own transparency, rather than displayed to the naked eye. The preciousness is mixed with the pragmatic, sportswear t-shirts, blouson shapes and treated denim juxtaposed with precious silks and velvet. That effortless mix affords the collection a dégagé ease, a contemporary mood and fresh sensuality, for a new Cavalli woman. Today she walks alongside her masculine equivalent, to encapsulate an entire universe - the cult of Cavalli.