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“How do people outside of Italy see Italy? They see beautiful buildings, they see food and they see fashion.” So said Stefano Gabbana after the Dolce & Gabbana SS16 show, a holiday romance that took in the country’s great tourist cities and captured it all in a selfie (the models were encouraged to photograph themselves on the catwalk for pictures that were then shot up on to overhead screens.)
The show was crammed with every totem of 1940s Italiana: pasticceria wrapper silks and pasta-box prints; pencil skirts embroidered with beach parasols and bathing belles; long wafting shirt-dresses worn with silken turbans and vast glitter sunglasses — all emblazoned with vintage postcard prints and curly handwritten love letters from Capri, Rome, Milan and Positano. “Where was Bari?” cried Anna Dello Russo, the Bari-born editor-at-large of Vogue Japan and herself quite the modern embodiment of the Italian abroad.
Gabbana and partner Domenico Dolce had studied a book published just after the second world war for inspiration. “Materials [at that time] were scarce and designers had turned to traditional handicraft techniques and domestic items from which to fashion clothes,” said Gabbana of the tablecloth embroidery, hand painting, enamelware and macramé featured here.
Called “boutique”, the postwar style was soon adopted by visiting American tourists — and salesmen — and the “Italian look” exported to the world. This earthy, seductive style was made even more evocative by directors such as Federico Fellini, whose films 8½ and La Dolce Vita cast for ever our image of the Italian bella donna in corset, knotted headscarf, full skirt and micro waist.
Dolce and Gabbana have been mining this seam of nostalgia now for years. Their SS16 woman — now vacationing, shopping and sexy as hell — had the same colourful wardrobe that has come to typify the line in Italian femininity they have made their signature. You know, the pencil skirt, the 1950s-style lingerie, the sundresses . . . Here they were again — with extra pasta. And quite delicious.