Tale of two houses: Marni and Dolce & Gabbana light up Milan fashion week

Marni’s new creative chief sports a colourful collage while Dolce & Gabbana serves up the champers and Instagram

Models backstage
Models backstage ahead of the Marni show at Milan fashion week autumn/winter 2017/18. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images/Marni

Sunday at Milan fashion week was the setting of two very different stories. First up was Marni, which made its name for cerebral clothes loved by the art crowd, with a womenswear debut from new designer Francesco Risso.

And then Dolce & Gabbana, a label that, increasingly, loves a catwalk stunt to generate chatter around its leopard print and lace-fuelled glamour. This time that came through casting influencers – Instagram stars, children of celebrities, even magazine editors – as models. The contrast between the two shows could not have been more extreme.

Following the departure of Marni’s founder and creative director, Consuelo Castiglioni, from the company in October last year, Francesco Risso, 33, an ex-Prada designer, took over as creative director. This Sunday morning in Milan was his first womenswear show.

Pretty in pastel: Marni outfits ready for the catwalk.
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Pretty in pastel: Marni outfits ready for the catwalk. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images/Marni

The show paid homage to Castiglioni’s legacy and subtly set out that this was Risso’s Marni 2.0, the first designed by a man. The first pieces, like a skirt suit and dress with cocoon-like volume, felt typical, as did the “ugly” sandals with bulbous heels and too-long soles, and the statement earrings. Then there were the Risso elements – brocade dresses with bra tops over them worn with sunglasses and mid-calf boots, a collage of ideas with a sort of club kid feel.

That was also there in oversized hats, Big Bird-worthy pastel-coloured fuzzy coats, and vinyl jackets. Seventies prints, sickly sweet colours and nipped in trouser suits, meanwhile, revealed the influence of the designer’s previous employer. It felt like a collection designed to plant the seeds of something to grow rather than ripping up what came before and starting again.

Backstage, Risso – a lanky puppyish presence with a mop of curly hair, wearing a vintage Western shirt – showed his millennial credentials. He said he was “super excited” by his new role, and explained, slightly gnomically, that the collection was called be1ngs to include different identities. “The one is in place of the ‘i’ so singularity and plurality are equally important in this collection,” he explained.

He also paid tribute to Castiglioni. “Consuelo and the work she has done is so important to me,” he said. “She was so amazing in freeing stereotyped vision of a woman or a man. That is something that I really care about and I want to fight for.”

A creation of Dolce & Gabbana
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A creation of Dolce & Gabbana at Milan fashion week, on Sunday. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP

Consuelo Castiglioni founded Marni with her husband, Gianni, in 1994. It has been suggested that the Castiglionis’ departure could have been down to a difficult relationship with Only The Brave. Renzo Rosso’s company, which also owns Rosso’s Diesel and Maison Margiela, bought 60% of Marni in 2012. Marni’s revenues grew 15.4% in 2015, to £127m. The company has 60 stores around the world.

Dolce & Gabbana started their show like a stadium concert, with screens all around flashing up the names of those about to walk on the catwalk. Models included Oliver Cheshire and Pixie Lott, Alice and Charlotte Dellal, and Jo Ellison, fashion editor of the Financial Times who is touted as a possible next Vogue editor. She walked to smiles from the British press, including Alexandra Shulman, who sat in the front row.

In a show that was more about entertainment than selling clothes, included were also dogs, babies and small children. Austin Mahone, the 20-year-old singer with 10 million followers on Instagram soundtracked everything with a live performance. It proved irresistible to those in the front row. Even Anna Wintour, usually cross-armed, was smiling and clearly enjoying the spectacle.

Pixie Lott, second left, off to the runway for the Dolce & Gabbana show.
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Pixie Lott, second left, off to the runway for the Dolce & Gabbana show. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

It finished with waiters in pageboy outfits appearing with trays of champagne and most audience members leaving the venue struggling to take everything in. In the world of Dolce & Gabbaba – unlike Marni – there is no such thing as OTT.

This was the first womenswear collection from Dolce & Gabbana since Melania Trump wore one of their dresses in January. Stefano Gabbana’s praise of the new first lady on social media prompted an outcry from fans, with some suggesting they would be boycotting the brand.

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5 thoughts on “Tale of two houses: Marni and Dolce & Gabbana light up Milan fashion week

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