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The complaint that Gucci has lost its sex appeal under the leadership of its chief executive, Mark Lee, and its creative director, Frida Giannini, was answered on Wednesday night


The complaint that Gucci has lost its sex appeal under the leadership of its chief executive, Mark Lee, and its creative director, Frida Giannini, was answered on Wednesday night when Ms. Giannini sent those familiar lipstick-red high heels down a mirrored runway to the pop rhythms of the Electric Light Orchestra's "Evil Woman."

Despite record sales last year, despite a decent debut from Ms. Giannini in September, Gucci has been slapped with the criticism that its clothes aren't as exciting and visionary as they were under her predecessor, Tom Ford. They have become, according to the industry's favorite put-down, "commercial."

The Gucci store on the Via Montenapoleone, meanwhile, is packed with customers. Natalie Massenet, the farsighted owner of Net-a-Porter in London, wants Gucci on her site because she believes Ms. Giannini is a lot like Chlo?'s former designer, Phoebe Philo: a woman with her finger on the pulse of her generation. And on Wednesday, as the runway glowed with pinpricks of red light and the first models came out in silk print minidresses, Jim Gold, the chief executive of Bergdorf Goodman, turned and shouted, "We're selling Gucci ready-to-wear better than we ever did under Tom Ford."
In the immortal words of Joan Rivers, Can we talk?

Last September, Ms. Giannini, 33, offered styles that nobody else in the business had: tea dresses, silk floral prints, skimmy polo tops, black satin boy trousers. This is a good thing, but if a sportier Gucci put off some editors and buyers, it was understandable. Fashion people tend to react to new talent much as a hibernating animal greets the sun when it emerges from its den at the start of spring; there's a brief period of adjustment before all haste is made to the nearest food source.

For some reason, though, Ms. Giannini didn't allow this natural period of adjustment to take place. She plunged into sexy clothes. Was it nervousness? Did she want to push past her beliefs and assure the crowd that she could be bold and that Gucci wasn't commercial?

The results were uneven and, at worst, without meaning: stiff "Saturday Night Fever" pantsuits in white or gold silk that could have been Versace or Dolce & Gabbana, liquidlike minidresses in sequins or jersey that draped over the breasts or dipped low in the back, maxicoats in cloth or purple striped fur, the red-print microminis with matching opaque stockings and glossy stilettos.

Ms. Giannini would do better to answer the complaint of commercialism by not answering it, and by following her instincts instead of trying to please editors or grafting Mr. Ford's legacy. Does it matter what flavor the Kool-Aid is if it's spiked?
The fashion world suffers from insincerity ? the Judas kiss delivered at the backstage door ? and the virtue of Ms. Giannini's first collection was its winning sincerity. You felt its presence again on Wednesday evening, in the freshness of a long white skirt with a cropped taupe suede jacket studded in silver, in the modesty of an unadorned evening dress in matte gold silk with a wrapped waist and short, fluttery sleeves. She should keep that quality close to her. The crowd will eventually sense it.

People have an intense mistrust at the moment of things that don't seem real. Probably that's why I reacted so sharply to Miuccia Prada's collection; the decision to do drab layers in black wool felt, with bra tops snapped over sweaters, seemed arbitrary and without genuine belief. And it was a suffering show if ever I've seen one.

"I think we're in a quiet time right now," said Christopher Bailey, whose Burberry show on Wednesday emphasized the sartorial and practical history of the British brand, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. "Luxury can be in the fit."

Mr. Bailey made the Burberry trench the centerpiece of the collection, as he did in his January men's show, adding fur to hems and collars, and featuring as well a pale shadow version of the label's signature check in cotton twill. The collection was mercifully without reference, allowing the wonderful English character that Mr. Bailey has planted at Burberry ? in the robustly flounced print dresses, in the capes and knitted riding helmets ? to come through.
MaxMara offered a cool, uncomplicated look at the moody 80's, a trend this season, with fur-collared coats in khaki or a deep-blue, industrial-looking cotton, slouchy glen-plaid skirts over black leggings, and some terrific chunky sweaters with a ravaged downtown ?lan.
Ancient history provided Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana with their themes ? at Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld tucked into the Renaissance for Juliet sleeves of braided fur and some sweet, altogether modern minidresses in dark wool. Fendi's new bag is bucket shaped, with a short, twisted shoulder strap.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana took Napoleon and Josephine to their logical end: breeches and smart jackets festooned with braid and buttons, poetic Empire dresses in velvet and chiffon. Tall black motorcycle boots with gold medallions were an inspired idea, and the designers treated themselves, and their audience, to a finale of Lesage-embroidered dresses. Fran?ois Lesage said he had done embroideries for the house before but "only drop by drop." This was full-on and righteous.

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