What is it with designers bringing back their greatest hits?
First, Donatella Versace offered an ode to her brother Gianni’s archives in 2017, on the 20th anniversary of his murder. Marc Jacobs announced his “grunge redux” collection. On Dec. 2, Versace was at it, reincarnating the notorious safety-pin gown of 1994. Also, the palm-tree-print chiffon number Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammy’s in 2000.
Well, musicians do it, not to mention Hollywood, so why not fashion?
You can understand the thinking, in the current climate. It worked very well once; why shouldn’t it work again?
On the constantly churning fashion hamster wheel, it takes creative pressure off designers to constantly make something new. Instead, they can give you the familiar and fabulous.
So Donatella did.
The occasion for the Versace trip down memory lane was the brand’s first pre-fall collection show, its first show in New York and its first show as a member of the Michael Kors family — sorry, the Capri Holdings family.
The show was held on the cavernous former trading floor of the old American Stock Exchange.
In the center of the room was another recreation: the hand holding the torch from the Statue of Liberty — this being Versace, it was gilded.
The overarching theme was again an ode to her brother, down to the fact the show was held on his birthday, Dec. 2.
One of the prints — a multicolored heart number that replaced the palm trees that had been on ye olde J. Lo dress — came from artist Jim Dine’s work for Gianni’s New York townhouse, which the designer had used in a collection in 1997.
You can bring back the past, but you have to update it.
The oversize gold safety pins of fashion legend came not just on a slinky black gown slit up to here and sliced down to there, more asymmetric and twisty than the original, but also on nipped-in black jackets, holding together seams on the back and shoulders and paired with cropped mohair sweaters and black miniskirts.
What decade were we in? Does it matter?
Before the show, Donatella tried to sum up the difference between then and now in her own way: Today “you can wear a short dress and a pair of sneakers and that’s not sexy any more, it’s cool,” she said.
It was a good try, and pretty fun to watch, but all this back-to-the-future-ness is starting to seem less and less convincing.