Roberto Cavalli Gets Physical for Spring/Summer 2019

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With a menswear background and strengths in tailoring and fit, designer Paul Surridge is taking Roberto Cavalli in a decidedly new direction. Where excess and provocation were once dual pillars of the brand’s core identity, it is now focused on youth and athleisure. Surridge’s recoding is intentional – and timely. In an interview with Esquire Magazine, he said, “So I’m trying to keep a little bit of the sexuality, but packaged in a language that today’s consumer can understand, without being too provocative… You know, #MeToo, Time’s Up — what you’re doing in a community where social attitudes change rapidly. You have to be informed.” It takes some expertise to achieve this while creating a collection for Spring/Summer 2019 that celebrates “the physicality of the body”.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

You could easily see the bike shorts and menswear shirts becoming the uniform of smart young things.

“The attention is on the legs and on barycentre, the origin of the body’s strength and it is emphasized with short hems and the shape of the bust line,” read the show notes, and it quickly became evident what was meant by that. Bike shorts, both plain and lavishly embellished versions, acted as a centerpiece to many looks. Surridge varied the tops between reworked menswear shirting (which was cropped, wrapped, ruched, and rumpled so as to cling to the body) and crisp, tunic-length jackets. With some shirts worn beneath strappy mini dresses, the bust was definitely emphasized, but not in a lurid way.

You could easily imagine the bike shorts and menswear shirts becoming the uniform of smart young things. The problem is, however, that none of these pieces look like they belong to a Roberto Cavalli collection. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to associate anything on this runway with the name on its tag. For designers new to their houses, it can be difficult to strike the right balance, the kind of balance that doesn’t alienate longtime, loyal clients, while also enticing a new generation of shoppers. It also takes some time for a new framework to solidify. This is Surridge’s third season at Roberto Cavalli, and while he has some fresh ideas to bring to the table, he would do well to marry his sporty, youthful new designs with a palette and prints that have more energy and verve.

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