Metropolitan Life – Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander, Gianfranco Ferre, Roberto Cavalli

<STRONG>Dolce & Gabbana:</STRONG> “Glamorous, but not so much,” said Stefano Gabbana before the Dolce & Gabbana show. Yes and no. Certainly he and Domenico Dolce toned down their usual pile-it-on approach as well as their typical...

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Dolce & Gabbana: “Glamorous, but not so much,” said Stefano Gabbana before the Dolce & Gabbana show. Yes and no. Certainly he and Domenico Dolce toned down their usual pile-it-on approach as well as their typical sex-and-sizzle factor. But rather than dampen the glam factor of the terrific collection they showed on Saturday, here it was realized in clothes with obvious commercial appeal. 

The Dolce business is red hot, with 20 percent growth anticipated for the fiscal year ending March 31. In recent seasons, the designers have become increasingly inclined to celebrate the fuel for such numbers on the runway. This time they did so more than ever, with a spirited parade that worked a Mod motif with smart restraint, and clear validity for less than — or more than — perfect figures. Numerous suits had skirts tucked gently at the waist for ease, and terrific classic cardigan and V-neck sweaters were worn on the loose side.

The collection was about as tony as it gets. The designers had started out by papering their studio with David Bailey photographs of Jean Shrimpton, then worked in a Russian undercurrent, “just as London beat culture was slightly influenced by Russia,” Gabbana said. Translation: fur, fur and then some, worked into just about every piece of clothing imaginable as well as endless trimmings. A micromini broadtail ensemble swung Sixties London; a kidskin fur suit with a blue blouse tied elegantly at the neck worked the more chi-chi side of chic. Then there were the coats, some all fluff, others in men’s wear patterns with fur borders, inspired by, but countless modern steps removed from, Zhivago-land.

While the designers worked their Bailey-Shrimpton motif lightly, they did play to the mood with certain elements beyond the Sixties hair and lovely makeup. Gigantic buttons set on wide, off-center plackets closed jackets and coats, and tall fur hats or captains’ caps finished many looks.

Perhaps in a nod to the next day’s Oscars, discreet glam went out the window at night, in a diamond-and-white rhapsody of feathers, fur and dazzling crystal mesh. “Almost everything is short,” Gabbana said. “But still Hollywood.”

This story first appeared in the February 28, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Jil Sander:  In October 2000, as guests filed out of the first post-Jil Jil Sander show, they shared a communal wince. The de-luxed, tricked-up collection had felt about as much like Jil Sander as would a pop-tart jeans line. Not so, Thursday’s redux of that situation. Rather, it brought on an emotional push and pull: outright glee over a rare bright light in this most grim of Milan seasons, yet regret for the absentee designer whose name graces the label.

Like that spring 2001 collection, this fall was designed by the often talent-challenged creative entity “Team.” Unlike that earlier effort, it felt true Jil in its richness, restraint and elegant calm. It also looked especially pertinent at a time when piling on more and more jazzola just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Certainly embellishment was never Sander’s shtick, nor that of her longtime stylist, Joe McKenna, whose precise hand controlled every exit. Though still referred to officially as the collection’s stylist, it’s likely that he assumed a role more akin to that of a creative director, if not head designer. Perhaps to avoid inquisition, he bolted out a back door immediately after the show. (McKenna is a contributor to WWD’s sister publication, W.)

Whatever their current relationship may be with Sander herself, McKenna and the rest of the team captured her essence with almost eerie clarity. Linear, almost geometric tailoring. A neutral palette, especially black. Reliance on a handful of staples — the high-belted coat; the airy sweater, now bloused in back; a relaxed skirt, here cut as a modified bubble.

But this was more than a greatest-hits montage. While retaining the core simplicity essential to a Sander collection, “Team” took some bold steps. The only pants, for example, were stirrup pants. And the group dared to decorate its work. Thus, a dress and coat flashed allover sequins and the sleeves of a suit dripped with fringe. Perhaps the show’s best ideas, however, were the same-fabric geometric appliqués that turned sturdy tailored clothes almost quirky: five-sided patches on a skirt; a sprinkle of snowflakes on the shoulder of a spectacular gray coat. Subtly ingenious — just like Jil Sander herself.

Gianfranco Ferré: Judging by his latest collection, Gianfranco Ferré must have spent plenty of nights counting sheep. His clients will dream not only of his fine shearlings, but of all manner of fare graced with fabulous fleecy collars, including a perfectly tailored nipped waist tweed jacket, a cropped leather flight jacket and a chic men’s coat worn with stovepipe jeans. But Ferré didn’t stop there — oh no. He also took a detour to Wall Street, offering a working girl’s reverie in the form of meticulously tailored pinstriped suitings. Then his lengthy itinerary meandered into decorous draped territory. Weighty, pendulous skirts came in embossed leather or perforated with zillions of grommets.

All of the above testified to Ferré’s dedication to rigorous design and the incredible workmanship that goes on in his atelier. And if it looked a tad over-the-top from time to time so be it. The last quarter of the show, however, offered no easy excuse, as his look evolved into a maximalist baroque ‘n’ denim affair topped off with a parade of stiff two-tiered gowns that hung from bondage-y bodices. The meter hit Ferré overload, and the barrage detracted from the refinement of the show’s beginnings, while leaving guests to stumble a bit stunned onto the sidewalk.

Roberto Cavalli: Whoa, tiger. Roberto Cavalli’s twinkling Seventies revival was a high-camp-fueled quest for the magical chic specific to Paris during that era — even if, as he explained in show notes, his inspiration was the 16th-century Count of Tirol’s Wunderkammer, or room of marvels. Cavalli opened with a black crocodile coat as slick as wet asphalt and bordered with a generous swath of fur. Then out came a Tyrolean jacket in snake tricked out with brass nailhead swirls, fluffy fur vests, full velvet skirts and a shimmering dress in a gold-glazed leopard print. It was all shown against a background done up like a classically swanky Tyrolean drawing room, but these were hardly stay-at-home clothes. Cavalli’s collection was an ode to the Le Castel set of yore, and he even showed a sendup of Yves Saint Laurent’s smoking. Of course, the collection’s most fundamental problem was that the clothes would better suit visitors to the Paris, the Las Vegas hotel and casino, than the swans of Saint-Germain.

But you can’t ignore Cavalli’s red-carpet appeal. His gowns were as wild as ever, bustling with feathers or encrusted with crystals and always as curvy as can be, with the most tight-fitting of the lot boasting velvet bows in back like their cousins from gay Paree or, um, Tyrol. His Empire gown in sweeping metallic pleats was a new shape that gave a nod to Milan’s volume momentum. But before long Cavalli was back to the Vegas stuff, finishing things off in a crescendo of stiff ruffles. Just because the soundtrack proclaimed, “Magnifique, c’est chic,” didn’t make it so.

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