Lined up like cavalry in the Milanese studio where Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce do all their fittings on the models in the days running up to this afternoon’s show, there must have been at least 100 different bags. Bags shaped like egg cartons (complete with plastic eggs, some with the shells half off), bags shaped like chocolate cakes, bags with Union Jacks or Tricolore flags on them, bags shaped and sized like cool-boxes. “Handy for the beach,” says Stefano Gabbana, hooking it over his elbow. And then there are their raffia fringed sunglasses and their earrings shaped like cakes.
Humour is proving a huge seller for Dolce e Gabbana. Their high net-worth clients especially, seem to appreciate the jokes. They sat there in the audience wearing flashing-light Dolce crowns and chiffon dresses printed with food. No one wants to look too po-faced about wealth these days; not even their own.
Dolce e Gabbana came relatively late to It bags. But now that they’re 50 per cent plus of their business, the label has become a powerhouse of whimsical accessories: from stretch lace ankle boots to tapestried mules and toweling-turban headwear appliqued with roses, this show kept on giving. Perhaps the most newsworthy piece however, was a humble pair of black knee high pop socks worn under a black crocheted-lace dress. Pop socks have made stealth appearances on other catwalks too. This may be confirmation of the rehabilitation.
In a week of Italian restropsectives (Donatella Versace’s show on Friday was a tribute to her brother Gianni, who was killed 20 years ago), Dolce and Gabbana paid homage to themselves by including fifteen designs from the archives: black, stretchy, curve-hugging: Sophia Loren meets Linda Evangelista. On the body, regardless of size, the dresses hug a woman’s curves as tightly as a tarmac road snaking round the Riviera. Back in a far-flung corner of the studio, I spied a rail of shape-wear dresses in mesh as taut as a trampoline and guaranteed to make anyone who wore it two sizes smaller.
That va-vam-voom black-widow look is still a potent part of Dolce and Gabbana branding. But in the intervening years an increasingly extravagant approach has taken over. Beading layered over embroideries layered over lace and brocade. “It’s a bit Scott Crolla,” said Gabbana, referring to the 1980s English label that brought C18th dandyism to a new generation. The Red Queen, in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass was another inspiration, depicted on glittering sequined dresses and cat-suits, buttons and bags. There was a plethora of other joyful prints: oversized garden–peas, wheatsheafs, baby chicks. They popped, spiralled and stepped their way across fresh looking cotton ball-gowns and elegantly relaxed pussy-bow chiffon columns: 106 outfits in all. To put this in context, Marni, which showed earlier in the day mustered a meagre 21. Dolce and Gabbana are far from alone among their Milanese peers in trying to bring levity to luxury. It seems serious times calls for un-serious fashion.