MILAN, Italy — “If you don’t dream, you die,” said Domenico Dolce after a presentation on Sunday that was brim-full of the conviction of a couple of wide-eyed dreamers who believe in fairytales. Cinderella, to be exact. That is one more thing Dolce and Stefano Gabbana share.
The coach in which she rode to the ball loomed over the set. The pumpkin it was conjured up from appeared as a handbag. The dress in which Cinderella won her prince was trotted out more than once, a fantasia in fairytale tinsel. Their men’s show in January took on cowboys and Indians, boys’ games.
For their womenswear, Dolce and Gabbana drew on every little girl’s favourite fantasy figure, the princess, recently refreshed by the staggering success of Frozen. It was the spirit of Anna and Elsa that inspired the designers, modern girls who no longer wait for their prince to come, but instead set out on a path of self-determination.
Still, it was the iconography of the retro princesses — Cinderella and Snow White, with a side order of Alice in her Wonderland — that dressed their new collection. And Prince Charming was still a major presence, his Ruritanian regalia providing the masculine influence that insinuates itself into Dolce & Gabbana womenswear.
It was totally over the top, even more OTT than the runway let on. A pre-show walkthrough with Gabbana revealed details that were lost in the catwalk’s fairytale farrago. The only thing missing from a vanity case that opened to reveal a message scrawled on its mirror — Who’s the Loveliest of All? — was music. (“Too expensive,” said Gabbana.) Coats unbuttoned to reveal linings of massed flowers. A watch was set into the heel of a shoe, a reminder perhaps for Cinderella that her clock was ticking down (except, of course, that she was wearing glass slippers — I think there were some of those too).
It felt like the OCD levels of detail in the collection could have been the result of Dolce and Gabbana’s experience with Alta Moda. They’re more aware than ever that almost any effect is achievable with their ateliers, perfectly polished and perfectly not.
That awareness produced some wittily bizarre subtexts. Remember Cinderella’s dress stitched by a team of eager mice? The designers celebrated their endeavours with pieces that looked like the crude but enthusiastic handiwork of…well, mice. The mice themselves made it onto their own dress. The fragments of a hand mirror shattered in rage by an evil stepmother were reconstituted as an elegant three-quarter-sleeved dress.
The stepmother actually came off pretty well because her wardrobe was most suited to the Sicilian widow aesthetic that is Dolce’s fall back position. And its rigour was welcome in an ocean of cute: toy soldiers, teddy bears, tweety birds and Gabbana’s Bengal cat Zambia.
But we’ll say it again. These boys believe, in the power of dreams, in the power of fashion to transport. They were positively exultant as they gazed upon what they had wrought (and each detail was definitely more wrought than the one before). “I have no idea where we’ll go next season,” said Gabbana. Then his eyes glazed as they fell upon a studded, bejewelled collar. Hooked on a fairytale.