THE MILAN CHRONICLES
DOMENICO DOLCE AND STEFANO GABBANA CELEBRATED THEIR NATIVE SICILY WITH ONE OF THEIR STRONGEST DOLCE & GABBANA COLLECTIONS IN SEASONS, WHILE DONATELLA VERSACE CAME THROUGH WITH A SEXY, REALITY-BASED VERSUS COLLECTION.

DOLCE & GABBANA: Let’s hear it for divine inspiration — it certainly worked for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The collection they showed on Sunday was fabulous, without question their best in seasons.
As for the role of the Almighty in this picture, the show was an ode to Sicily, specifically the religious festivals of that region and southern Italy. As the designers tell the story, when a procession hits the streets, women flee their houses clad in whatever — bathrobes, dresses, cropped pinstriped trousers — apparently to praise the saints and adjust their corset stays. And it all worked like a charm.
The pair did not, however, rely on divinity for inspiration. They had obviously taken a long, hard look at reviews of their last collection, which criticized them for coasting through a vast sea of greatest hits. This show featured a number of distinct changes, starting with the decision to show fewer basics on the runway. They moved from the Fiera to a series of rooms in their villa, a venue that caused more than a little consternation among the disenfranchised. Many regular attendees — who had fancied themselves, if not A list, then at least B-plus — were downgraded to an outside tent and video screen. They were not amused.
Inside, some guests found seats in a telling location. The fully cataloged library was filled with books high-brow and low, and rich with Dolce references, from Walter Albini to Monica Vitti to Hollywood. Tucked way up in a top-shelf corner was one little volume, “New Trends.”
There was a Galliano-Schlumberger aura to the arrangement of gilt loveseats and velvet-colored chairs woven through the rooms. “All that’s missing is the dust,” quipped one guest. But except for that unmistakable comparison, this show was Dolce at its pure, voluptuous, sexy best, with a sparkle and freshness that the last collection lacked.
A series of familiar Virgin Mary images set the tone. These were hand-painted and jeweled on lean dresses, skirts and tops and covered with the thinnest layer of black veiling. There were also jeweled Sacred Heart insignias and tiny blue miraculous medals dangling from big hoop earrings. It all had a beauty, and a even peculiar aura of reverence about it. Perhaps this is rooted in the reverence toward women in general at play throughout Dolce and Gabbana’s work, one characterized by wit, attainable glamour and witty expressions of sexuality. These designers laud, rather than lampoon, women, and their pop-culturized Madonna is no exception. Nevertheless, many people will no doubt find it in the worst possible taste — not to mention sacrilegious.
But what’s fashion without controversy?
The religious elements looked perfectly in sync with scores of net-covered corsets, pinstriped trousers cropped just below the knees and long, sexy sweaters. Other great ideas included hand-embroidered knee-highs (last season’s pricy embellished tights sold out of the New York store in one week), plastic-covered silk bustier dresses and black terry robes with big mink collars — a must-have, at least for glam goddess types.
And they’ll surely be lining up, because Dolce & Gabbana has become a favorite of Hollywood stars and starlets rediscovering the joys of glamour. In celebration, the designers threw a post-show party for Demi Moore, who, after her stint as Soldato Jane, has turned to more girly pursuits and become fashion’s biggest fan. Demi will look just divine in those glorious silk net corset gowns. Amen.
VERSUS: It was a huge moment for Donatella Versace. Although Donatella has been the designer of record for Versus for several seasons, this was her first truly solo effort without Gianni beside her. And at each of the three shows on Saturday night, many in the audience responded with a standing ovation.
“I’m a Versace girl, so I’m not going to have another philosophy,” Donatella said last week. And in this collection, those words rang very true, from the live music of the British band Crystal Method, to the front row that included Demi Moore, Janet Jackson, Boy George and even Posh Spice, to the of-the-moment trend capsule the clothes provided.
Versus was conceived as a young, hip, commercial collection, and that’s exactly the approach that Donatella has taken and honed with each season. “Versus is growing around the world,” she said. “There are many more people who can spend less money than people who can spend more money. That’s reality.”
Versus’ reality has always been steeped in current trends delivered with that unmistakably Versace sexy slant. This season, Donatella put a strong streetwise spin on the collection, aided by the savvy extras of stylist Victoria Bartlett. And if a drawstring here or a slit shoulder there seemed inspired by fashion’s reference du jour Daryl K., they still looked good.
The mood was sexy-tough, with shiny leathers, computer prints, rubbery skirts over undies and plenty of shine. Spare, bare pieces were often shown in multiple layers and sometimes took on subtle details, such as random beading or a printed black square outline on the side of a skirt. In fact, graphic lines were something of a leitmotif, not in the form of traditional stripes, but in single, circular bands printed on each model’s stick-straight hair, and the black seams that ran up the front of provocative sheer anklets.
These are, in the end, smart, salable clothes Versace style — which was exactly Donatella’s goal. “The greatest thing,” she said, “is to see a lot of people wear your clothes on the street. Without that, there’s nothing else.”
BLUMARINE: Anna Molinari sure knows how to have a good time — and that’s just what her hot little Blumarine girls want. This collection was a fun-filled romp with all the sex kitten panache that has made Molinari so popular with the buxom and the beautiful. She has all those short decollete dresses one has come to expect from her, but don’t think that’s it. Her Blumarine girl wants more, and she got it — from sexy secretaries to flirty debutantes to Spanish senoritas, all shown with Molinari’s frivolous touch. For spring, Blugirls will be wearing sorbet-colored slinky dresses and body-hugging micro suits, occasionally accessorized with an ironic string of pearls. When they head to the office, it’s in gray pinstripes, but in body-skimming, super-short shapes that are bound to stand out in the secretarial pool. And every Blugirl must have Molinari’s item of the season, plastered-to-the-body capri jeans studded with Swarovski rhinestones.
PHILOSOPHY DI ALBERTA FERRETTI: Ferretti’s spring collection for Philosophy has all the youthful energy we’ve come to expect from this secondary collection. And while it may have a certain familiarity — from the Comme des Garcons-style patchwork overlay skirts to Marc Jacobs-inspired beaded tulle tops — the designer did manage to inject it with her own sense of sweetness. The best looks included the tailored pieces and her versions of shine — clingy, metallic knits; iridescent leathers; sequined dresses, and shiny leather gladiator sandals.
LES COPAINS: Over the past few seasons, the Les Copains design team has begun targeting a different customer. Those fun, perky knits they used to favor have given way to languid jerseys for a more traditional woman. This season, there were head-to-toe versions ranging from slinky jackets, camisoles and bra tops to fluid pants. In a livelier mood, jersey pieces were mixed with burned-out sweaters, embroidered and sequined stovepipe pants, and micro-minis. And, in a play of textures, flaming-orange leather jackets and tops were paired with wispy silk dresses and skirts.

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