Dolce&Gabbana make encyclopedic review of artisanal heritage

A model wears a creation as part of the Dolce & Gabbana women's Fall-Winter 2019-2020 collection, that was presented in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Dolce & Gabbana gave the fashion world an encyclopedic review of their artisanal credentials with an expansive show of more than 100 looks

MILAN — Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala made a rare fashion week appearance, sitting in the front row of Dolce & Gabbana on Sunday.

The mayor's presence had the hallmark of an institutional show of support after the designers were forced to cancel a Shanghai show following comments by one of the designers deemed as racist.

The stalwart Milanese brand also faced a boycott in China, the luxury world's biggest market, and the longer term impact of the incident remains unclear. This was their first womenswear show since the controversy, which was followed by another incident involving Milan colleagues Prada and Gucci for including images that recalled blackface in their collections.

Highlights from Sunday's previews for next fall and winter:

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DOLCE & GABBANA PARADE ELEGANCE

Dolce & Gabbana gave the fashion world an encyclopedic review of their artisanal credentials with an expansive show of 127 looks.

The multi-theme runway show flipped through a series of well-catalogued Dolce & Gabbana themes. Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana started with elegant suits topped with fedora hats or elaborate feathered fascinators worthy of a female Dasheill Hammett character then transitioned to chiffon and silk dresses or pantsuits with feather boa trim that exuded leisure.

The designers then ran through patterns, textiles and color: leopard, florals, houndstooth and Prince of Wales, jewel tone colorblocking and brocades. The designers, unusually, then highlighted a series of frothy bridal gowns. And the final flourish was reserved for the brand's true mainstay: beautifully tailored looks in black.

The looks played on classic, even stereotypical, roles of femininity, which remains at the heart of Dolce & Gabbana's appeal with its core consumer.

Highlights included a royal purple A-line coat with cape and bow details that popped with layers of turquoise crinoline, an all-white fitted double-breasted suit topped with a soft cashmere overcoat, a modern take on the suit deconstructed into an off-shoulder look and a black-and-white polka dot dress made voluminous by underlays worn by an Asian model. Applause emitting from a VIP front row punctuated the show.

The show titled "Elegance" opened with a video showing Dolce draping fabric on a model and hand stitching a garment that, when finished, was branded with the duo's script in Italian "Fatto a mano," or "Made by hand."

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STELLA JEAN

Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean's collection for next fall and winter took a dramatic turn with a sleeker silhouette and more urban styling.

Jean said that her "bourgeois lady" is taking an updated version of a 17th-century European tour, and instead of cultural capitals, she is visiting places usually considered beach destinations — but which instead have a rich artistic tradition. By that, she referred to the naive art of French Polynesia, Haiti and the Caribbean in general.

A gray, brick and camel plaid belted trench gave expression to Jean's old continent influence and European styling. A tiered, pleated red print dress worn with a turtle neck and knee-high boots projected an easy elegance. A black laser-cut top with slit-skirt and short-shorts with a sweater with a pair of cats had youthful flair.

Jean maintained her colorful naive art prints, but with a long pencil skirt worn with a sleek high-neck blouse in seashell pink.

The color palette was more subdued than in some seasons past, including pink, green, blue, brick red gray and white.

"For the first time there is some black. I guarantee that it does not reflect any malaise. I am not having a difficult moment. I like black," Jean said backstage.

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MARRAS'S MINERS

Antonio Marras's collection exuded the freedom that he imagines would have been felt by Sardinian mine workers freed from labor, dressed in their Sunday best and ready to party. It's a feeling many new economy workers could easily relate to.

The joyful looks had a deliberate rag-tag feeling that Marras achieved by taking cuttings from discarded or used clothing and other fabrics, creating a chronological history of a garment through panels and patches as it is passed from mother to daughter, father to son, adapted for occasion and season.

Marras' fantasy revolves around the Italian painter Modigliani, whose father owned Sardinian mines, and painterly images appear on garments, most sweetly on the fronts of knee socks.

A woman's coat was made from scraps of a man's plaid jacket and a military coat, decorated with feathers and dark sparkles that evoke the minerals within the mine. A man's jacket was recycled with sleeves from one coat and panels from another. A dress was constructed out of layers of ruffles, tiers and bows over lace. A sweater was decorated with a copper sheen, patched with a masculine plaid and the lace.

It was all about improvisation: Marras was representing workers without means — but deliberately executed — they have skill and passion.

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ODP SUSTAINABLE BAGS

Model Arizona Muse brought her sustainability chops to a capsule collection of structured bags by Italian brand Officina del Poggio, or ODP for short.

"We're living in a really exciting time where sustainability isn't earthy and brown anymore. It's really chic and luxury," Muse said at a presentation.

Muse, who is on the board of the London-based Sustainable Angle non-profit, sourced rich ostrich skins taken from the bird's legs, which until recently would have been discarded, and fused seamlessly together with new techniques to make luxe coverings for bags designed by American Allison Hoeltzel in her Bologna workshop.

Hoetzel's handbags have the simple elegance of a Shaker box, and are built around wooden forms clad in leather, offering stylish protection objects in a hard shell. The bags are secured by sleek golden closures or belt straps. The designer said she plans to incorporate elements from the capsule in the main line of her 5-year-old brand, including a sustainable micro-suede for the bags' interior and organic cotton velvet for the exterior.

The sustainable collection retailed for about 20 percent higher than her main collection, she said.

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ATSUSHI NAKASHIMA EXPLORES EROSION

Japanese designer Atsushi Nakashima's seventh Milan runway collection explorex erosion, with one element gradually invading another.

Nakashima employed a sophisticated use of materials to create a trench coat with sheer silvery panels alongside black-trim khaki.

A military green dress was set off by a partial iridescent ruffle on the hem, puffy sleeves and transparent arm. A cropped belted trench coat with technical detailing was paired with a matching skirt, with just a peek of a white top setting the two garments apart. Textiles themselves had a distressed look, seeming to erode on the garment.

His triangular logo representing the A in his first name was worked into repeating patterns on sweat shirts, smocked dresses and most luxuriously on a fur coat with a sheer overlay.

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UJOH'S PROPORTION PLAYS

Mitsuru Nishizaki's latest Ujoh collection combined western elements like fringe scarves, ribbed knitwear and quilting alongside looser Asian silhouette with elements of a kimono jacket and martial art trousers.

Both the female and male silhouette played with proportions. Sleeves were elongated, trousers loos and jackets wide.

A woman's double-breasted jacket was paired loose Asian style trousers. A man's jacket closed with a built-in kimono belt. A long gray tunic with kimono arms tied in the front scarf-like at the waist, creating two lengths. Knitwear wrapped around the body, but was never symmetrical. Nishizaki also played with quilting, mimicking it with laser cuts on a leather-like textile

The palette was mostly black and neutrals, with flashes of color mostly left for glimpses in linings.

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