>> Frida Giannini's runway-clothes-as-merchandise concept for Gucci may be selling well, but it's still not sitting well with critics.  Last season, her collection was likened to Zara, and this season her Fall 2009 collection earned another mall-brand comparison: Bebe.

Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes, neither of whom are afraid to be blunt, seemed indifferent to criticizing the collection — both just focused on Frida's decision to channel sex.  But Christina Binkley of The Wall Street Journal got more pointed, going so far to ask "Who is the Gucci woman?": "[Frida] seems to develop a startling new personality each season, leaving last season’s clothes lost in relation to the new collection. Last season, she was globetrotting with flower children. This season, she’s shaking it in sequined leggings and a sparkling tunic at Studio 54."

"Gucci continues to look like Bebe with a bigger budget" »

WWD was more subtle about their disapproval, slipping less-than-flattering words like "gauche" into their review, while Booth Moore of the Los Angeles Times went for the outright accusatory Bebe comparison: "The problem is that [Frida's] never been able to elevate the look to the realm of luxury. So Gucci continues to look like Bebe with a bigger budget."

But she's got people talking — as Fashion Week Daily points out, "No matter what Frida Giannini shows, it governs dinner-table discussions in Milan at least until Miuccia Prada has her say. Some applaud Giannini for delivering trends directly and accessibly to the Gucci customer while others suggest that such a storied house merits a bit more vision."  But Style.com counters, "Still, in these extreme times, maybe that's splitting hairs. When a designer sees her market, it would be insanity not to go for it, and in Giannini's case, that means aiming at nightclubbing girls."  So, Bebe or not, Frida will likely be sticking around.  Here's to next season . . . Gucci as Topshop, perhaps?