This Aquilano.Rimondi collection was so arresting that it catalyzed the various different benchwarmers and seasoned commenters in the audience in a game of designer join-the-dots. One watcher suggested a touch of Jil Sander, or perhaps Prada. A gentle insinuation of Brunello Cucinelli, too? We reached for the contextual not to do this collection down—far from it—but to fix a bearing. Because, at first, it seemed so un-Aquilano.Rimondi.

It’s not that designers Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi had suddenly stinted in the richness of their research or their mania for material. Those chalk-stripe and pinstripe pieces were made in a felt-ish cashmere mix soft enough to fire a fetish. The ornamental armor overcoat was encrusted with a joyfully unnecessary abundance of paillettes in different shapes and subtly discordant metallic finishes.

No, the quiver of nonrecognition came via the subtraction of the Romanesque, the maximalist, the molto. Instead, the designers’ art-history reference this season came from de Stijl, and they cleverly danced with the parallels between old-school menswear and that Mondrian-starred movement’s obsession with surgical geometry. So the check on sheer jersey dresses, or paneled in beading down the inner arms of tailored overcoats, was reminiscent of Theo van Doesburg’s grids. Those were echoed further in the chopped-up ribbed panels on silver eyelet-studded knits. A panne dress windowed with blocks of lace and contrasting sequins was near-criminally covered by a peak-lapelled, double-breasted gray overcoat. There were curve and verve—femininity—here, but relocated from the most trite sites to unexpected neighborhoods, like the billow at the base of a cashmere shirt as it cupped toward the waistline of its matching miniskirt.

Double-breasted jackets were cut hip-bone high and cinched under the bosom, and the panel of a menswear trouser tightener was refashioned as the connective membrane in a wraparound miniskirt. Mannish? Maybe. A radical volte-face? Not so much. This was a more austerely influenced iteration of the Aquilano.Rimondi formula, sure, but one realized with the usual, extravagantly loving levels of care. Pretty/masculine.

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