Ahead of Peter Dundas’ takeover at Roberto Cavalli, the anticipation was palpable. Time and time again, we’re reminded of just how hard it is for a new designer to step in and take the reins of a brand—and it’s all the more difficult when the founder is watching. Roberto Cavalli has been building his company since 1970 and this was the first collection he didn’t design. Before diving into our review, let’s lay out a few points about the founder. Roberto Cavalli launched his career with the development of a pattern printing technique on leather and a patchwork technique that tied contrasting materials like suede, cotton, or velvet together. Cavalli has always been attached to his hometown of Florence and to an extravagant Italian Riviera aesthetic gushing with fluid silhouettes, revealing dresses, embellished materials, and vibrant animal prints. He also created a “Cavalli lifestyle” brand including diffusion lines, nightclubs (among which is a very popular one in Dubai), and even a vodka brand.
Back to Dundas. The former Pucci creative director and resident cool boy obsessed with the 70s is accustomed to catering to a jet-set clientele. (Incidentally, Dundas already worked at Cavalli from 2000 to 2005.) On paper, it reads like a perfect match; however, the debut was in fact less stellar than expected. Lately, the house of Cavalli has featured beautiful handwork: exciting silhouettes and rich embroideries (which are also a Dundas thing). But for his freshman collection, Dundas’ focus was elsewhere, on “the Roberto Cavalli woman, past, present, and beyond” (so stated the show notes). Our reply? Too much of the Cavalli woman from the ‘80s.
Now, high-waisted bleached denim in pink or violet are fun, and so are high-low skirts that fly with the wind, tie-dye velvets, and taffetas. But mixed with a metallic mesh or brocade lion print and large belts, the looks lost all their freshness. Highlights included a beautiful suede teal top with leather miniskirt layered under a blue taffeta skirt with a flowy back; the chain embellished denim jackets and jeans; perforated velvet tops; and the zebra denim print. These looks will most likely be worn en masse by the cool crowd that Dundas imported with his arrival. As for the rest: fingers crossed for a more forgiving decade next season.