By  on February 22, 2008

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's fall Dolce & Gabbana collection had a sporty, unfussy style that recalled the late Sixties and early Seventies. The designers concentrated on a few key pieces, like the ones shown here: a ribbed sweater, tailored shirt and jeans, worn with a newsboy cap and big, handsome bag.

A boho sportiness was the order of the day at Dolce & Gabbana, while Versace's looks had a chic restraint and geometry was an influence at Fendi.

Dolce & Gabbana: "Street aristocratic." That's how Domenico Dolce described the collection he and Stefano Gabbana showed on Thursday afternoon, one that recalled the boho glory days of the late Sixties and early Seventies, sending a certain age bracket of the audience reflecting back on their middle-school celebrity crushes. It was a time of terrific, unfussy style and the runway reflected it in a woolly, tweedy, tartaned and, yes, furry manner that focused on a few key items: long, shaggy vests; jeans; poor-boy knits; Western looks; dirndl skirts and dresses, and natty suits. Piled in cozy layers with the appropriate je ne sais quoi, and finished off with jaunty newsboy caps and a great bag, often with a scarf tied offhandedly to the strap, these made for a primer on casual chic.

Speaking of which, at their preshow press conference, the designers responded in the negative when asked if they had an ideal muse in mind. Pressed, however, Gabbana said if forced to name their ideal customer, Carla Bruni came to mind. Indeed, one could imagine Mrs. Sarkozy's patrician countenance wrapped in a long-haired lamb vest belted over a plaid shirt and skinny jeans, or a striped turtleneck and tartan pants. Such everyday looks appealed with their familiarity and offered a welcome alternative to the more lady-fied gray-sheath side of Milan. The dresses here went the alt route, too, but less viably: As appealing as sensible puff-sleeve frocks in wide-wale corduroy or Prince-of-Wales plaid look on the runway, their hip-enhancing dirndls could prove a hard sell, though the charming scarf-print versions with less girth and greater flou might tickle some fancies.

For evening came spectacular ballgowns, corseted affairs in diaphanous tulles and chiffons with overlays of no-frills day fabrics, including lamb and a gorgeous brown herringbone. And that was about it. Until the evening segment, the clothes were repetitive to the point of we get it, already — a little too much ado about too few ideas, even if they translated into some beautiful clothes.Versace: Donatella Versace closed the Milan season with a lovely show that fell in with the city's prevailing mood of approachable polish and chic restraint. Versace spun it her way: short, a bit sassy and with an ode to joy via shots of vibrant color amidst ample navy and black. She also did her part for the ongoing art and fashion symbiosis, recruiting Berlin-based artist Tim Roeloffs to dip into the house archives and come out with material for collage prints, the collection's only significant decoration.

The results were terrific for day and through the cocktail hour, as deceptively intricate cuts gave dresses different proportions coming and going: a collage-print strapless number that fanned out trapeze-like in back; a navy shift with slash hip pockets blousoned in back. As for the collage dresses, Roeloffs fused his own renderings of Berlin street scenes with Versace iconography — heady, yes, but not too much so. The coats were charmers all, whether in lush cashmere or indulgently altered fur — what's not to love about a pink, cinch-waist mink parka?

Yet, despite the wealth of strong clothes, in the end, Versace fell victim to her spot on her calendar. Everyone has sat through a long Milan preceded by a long New York, both with too few surprises. Though Donatella is right on target for fall and in fact brought something fresh to the season with color and spunk, the clothes just didn't excite the way they might have if everyone weren't so fashion weary. Which leads to her eveningwear: It felt like an Oscars preview, which is to say, beautiful but familiar. It's a given that many designers pitch the red-carpet set from their runways. Fine, if they feel they must. But it's a formula that doesn't leave much room for experimentation.

Fendi: While last season, Karl Lagerfeld literally ran circles around a very specific geometric concept for Fendi, here, his message was less focused. Geometry still played, albeit more randomly, a role in black capes and coats boasting complicated circular cuts that cloaked the back and arms like beetle wings. Some chunky knits were also spun into circles, like hole punches in a gray bubble skirt and unspooled balls of yarn on a bulky sweater. Such constructions were interesting, even cozy at times, and certainly reflected Fendi's techy inclinations. Those were all the more evident when Lagerfeld moved on to a nature theme — leaf-shaped appliqués that, sewn onto fitted jackets or the sleeves of a long black dress, looked plucked from the backdrop of barren trees. The same motif even popped up as laser-cut fur, which was just the beginning of the fuzz, which included broadtail, fox and sheared mink, done mostly as jackets or trims.The mood was dark and at points aggressive. Variations on military jackets cinched with wide, austere belts read as sharp, while maxiskirts worn with moody sweaters skewed toward Goth. The collection had attitude, one that was underscored by power accessories: over-the-knee boots, messenger bags and frame clutches studded with what looked like colorful marbles, which undoubtedly will set tills ringing. As will the lineup of signature Fendi furs — and here's betting that those that shimmered with a coating of genuine 24-karat gold will be, well, good as gold.

PHOTOS BY STEPHANE FEUGERE, GIOVANNI GIANNONI, DAVIDE MAESTRI, MAURICIO MIRANDA AND DAVE YODER

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