Spellbinding shows

di Fabio Maria Damato

Stylish sorcerers, glamorous witches and merciless Lady Lecters appeared on the catwalks, displaying dark elegance reminiscent of Rooney Mara, Morticia Addams and the new version of Snow White’s Evil Queen.

 Spellbinding shows
Thom Browne performance at New York

The women presented on the international catwalks for next autumn and winter are followers of style, glamorous witches and ruthless viragos. They have dark, occult and ravenous souls. These creatures of the night bring a new form of cruel, lethal beauty that casts its spell on all onlookers. The contemporary witches of this elegant coven offered a display of enchanting fashion. There were long, see-through gowns by Peter Dundas for Emilio Pucci and mermaids of the abyss by Roberto Cavalli. The sumptuous Morticia Addams look by Tomas Mayer of Bottega Veneta had a delightfully devilish feel, as did the Evil Queens by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The new dark ladies looked just like the wicked stepmother played by Charlize Theron in the upcoming film Snow White and the Huntsman. They would not have seemed out of place on the catwalk for the Autumn-Winter 2007/08 collection by the late Lee Alexander McQueen, who presented a selection of beguiling temptresses in a large setting inspired by the Salem witch trials. The last bastion of elegance is being defended by a style with Victorian characteristics, which has made a savage assault on the affected sugariness of last season. Vampires with bloodshot eyes emulated the Twilight saga and emerged from their coffins at events such as the macabre presentation/happening by the American designer Thom Browne in New York. He envisaged an army of zombies with luxurious satin hoods waiting to invade streets across the world, from New York to Shanghai. There was an almost mediaeval appearance to them, as was the case with the offerings from Neil Barrett and Emilio de la Morena. The new witches sported ruffs that brought to mind the scenes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. They were pinned under the frocks of Damir Doma, from which showy, sparkling Byzantine crosses dangled. Donatella Versace had plenty of diamonds and rubies to go with them. By her own admission, the clothes that she designed were based on ideas from the Atelier Versace collection for Autumn-Winter 1997/98, which was the last one produced by her brother Gianni before his death. The latest luxury lines have embraced the colours of darkness in an attempt to exorcize the crisis and depict the shadowy hues of the contemporary world: from the burnout velvet of the ancestral creatures by Frida Giannini for Gucci to the baroque sartorial symphony by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana for their Dolce & Gabbana label. It was possible to get lost in the infinite volumes of the demonic cloaks by the Lebanese designer Elie Saab. The last rites of an affectedly flirty style have been administered. It has given way to a universal trend that could be seen in all of the collections for Autumn-Winter 2012-13. In Milan, Paris, New York and London, today’s creative talents struck up a gothic, dark tune that was disturbingly appealing. The iconic beauty of curves and flame-red lips is no more and the only plausible alternative is the style of Rooney Mara, the star of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She was acclaimed by fashion experts for her appearance at the 2012 Oscars in a Givenchy Haute Couture dress, but in everyday life she prefers a dark, street wardrobe to go with her lean body and skin which is almost as pale as the zombies from Dawn of the Dead. For example, take the biker jackets made of neoprene and nappa by Lanvin, the tight Catwoman outfits by Kanye West and the sculptural dresses by Antwerp’s Ann Demeulemeester. What’s more, the modern Lady Lecters can conceal their ravenous jaws with urban gauzes by Alexander Wang, vinyl collars by Gareth Pugh that would make even Disney’s Maleficent envious, and coarse wool mediaeval polo necks by Haider Ackermann. To cover their faces while putting together a magical concoction or a love potion, they can choose between Mugler’s hoods and the clandestine masks covered in feathers revealed in London by Giles. The cult film Bell, Book and Candle starring Kim Novak provides the prevailing atmosphere. There is a stern, mysterious charm to the season’s women, as seen in the austere suits in Stefano Pilati’s last collection for Yves Saint Laurent and the sharp cuts of the trenches that are part of the noir romanticism championed by Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri at Valentino. The fashion world has spoken. The black of night will be the predominant colour of tomorrow. Witches, the living dead, cannibal women, noir heroines and murderesses have mapped out a pitiless season enveloped in sulphurous clouds.