The world financial markets are plunging but at Versace, hemlines are soaring. How often have we seen in history skirt lengths do the opposite to the economy, especially in Italy, where not only is the party-loving prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, facing five criminal trials but his country has just seen its credit rating drop from AA to A because of its national debt.
Italy is the third biggest economy in the eurozone, and a substantial part of what keeps it afloat is its luxury fashion industry. Big brands such as Armani, Gucci, Prada and Versace bring in substantial export revenues, so there will be a lot depending on sales of Donatella's short skirts and flashy gold trims. In fact, there was so much gilding on Versace's new minidresses, that, if melted down, they would go a long way to solving Italy's debt crisis - except that, regrettably, the gold was not real. Nevertheless, these dresses with their starfish and mermaid prints were perfect for party-loving girls making merry before the ship goes down. Although hopefully Italy's situation will not come to that.
Donatella Versace has gone back to the house's fun-loving roots for her summer collection, offering the signature pleated minis and shorts, leather and neoprene biker jackets trimmed with bondage strapping and armour-like gold studding. The only things missing on the catwalk were the top models such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford who once would have paraded these glamazon styles for Gianni Versace back in the early 1990s, the Medusa heads and the exuberant baroque prints - but those made a surprise appearance elsewhere.
Versace has been trawling the archives researching historic pieces to rework for the forthcoming capsule collection for the Swedish fast fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz, and it obviously has influenced her mainline collection. This was Gianni in his Miami phase, but given Donatella's modern spin. The punky glamour of the collection was balanced by the watercolour softness of the sea life prints, the pale palette (white, lilac and eau de nil) and the long fluid gowns that will be gracing a few red carpets in the coming season.
The screaming baroque scarf prints so adored by Gianni Versace made an exuberant statement on the D&G catwalk in what turns out to have been the last collection for this lively, younger, more affordable line. D&G will be absorbed into the main Dolce & Gabbana collection, a decision that the designers, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are happy about. So this was the collection's last hurrah and an upbeat and joyous one it was, too. The backdrop of giant silk foulards (square scarves) hinted at the theme as a parade of beauties in chunky gold jewellery and gilded sunglasses came out demonstrating more ways to wear a silk square than a Hermès handbook. A riotous mix of scarf prints was wrapped into bandeaux, knotted into shirts (suspended together from a waistband as handkerchief hem minis), worn as halters, bloomers, boxer shorts, jewelled tunics and cropped cigarette trousers and gypsy dresses. It was the perfect way to wrap up D&G.
Over the past year foulards have been returning from a long period in the fashion wilderness as the main fare of airport retail outlets, and are once again appreciated for their unique picturesque imagery. Celine and, naturally, Hermès are among those rehabilitating the luxurious printed silk twill square. Emilio Pucci, the venerable house founded on its psychedelic way with colour and print, presented beautiful scarf print shirts (teamed with scarf-belted tailored Bermuda shorts) and halter-neck tops in what the designer Peter Dundas describes as his "haute gypsy" collection.
The designer dug out of Pucci's vast archives stunning prints that he mixed and matched into patchworks of sizzling hot reds and pinks, or venomous yellow and black for long gypsy skirts and lace-edged cropped camisoles. These were the straightforward pieces. Dundas skilfully patched Pucci prints on to a nude lingerie lace slip, or a long stretch tulle sheath dress; others were sprinkled with ostrich feathers and beading to create a highly desirable alta moda style for the haute bohemian. If I were an Italian and this were my last party then I most certainly would want to be wearing something from this collection.