Jo Ellison at the Dolce & Gabbana AW17 show
Jo Ellison at the Dolce & Gabbana AW17 show © Catwalking

Stefano Gabbana was talking backstage before the Dolce & Gabbana AW17 show. The show would have no models. Just friends of the house, millennials, Alta Moda clients and loyal friends.

He looked at me suddenly. “You want to do it?”

I laughed politely. “Sure,” I scoffed. “What you really need right now is a decrepit hack on your catwalk.” But no, he was actually serious. There was a look waiting nearby. A giant red fur coat with bows all over.

It had my name on it (well, not literally, but, you know . . . ). Yes, no, maybe? Well, you only live once . . . 

And so began one of the quickest metamorphoses ever seen in fashion. The transformation of Financial Times fashion writer into bona fide Dolce girl. Seriously.

Hair was quick. Guido, the hairstyling legend, dragged me into a chair and started smoothing the grey hairs into a “masculine” do.

Jo Ellison backstage with designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana

Pat McGrath, on recovering from the horror of having to salvage my face from sallow fatigue, got to work on the make-up. An icy sweat of fear crept over my body.

We dismiss the work of models as an effortless slip across a catwalk. But things change somewhat when you’re actually, you know, about to stride down a catwalk in front of flashing bulbs, all your peers and an assembly of patrons scrutinising your ugly mug. Christ, it’s terrifying.

© Catwalking
© Catwalking

Domenico Dolce whistled up a look. Trousers! Please God, trousers! A man’s tuxedo shirt. A ribbon tied around the neck and flat shoes. He squashed me behind a moodboard and started stripping me down. The clothes fit. A miracle! The red coat hid just about everything else. Maybe a ribbon headband, he pondered? “I don’t think so,” I replied. Guido rolled his eyes. “That’s right, tell the designer your opinion,” he chuckled. “Who do you think you are?! Linda Evangelista?!”

Changed, made-up. Minutes till showtime. “You’ll be walking just after the actor Gabriel Day-Lewis,” advised the show producer. “Just walk down the middle, and turn left at the end . . . ” Very attractive women gathered around me. Ever feel that you’re about to sabotage six months of painstaking labour? I did.

Jo Ellison gets her hair done by Guido Palau © Jo Ellison

If anyone ever doubts that Dolce is inclusive, I say to them: “Look at me!” Look number seven, with the giant smirk and a few too many chins. Walking like a duck through a farmyard. That’s how inclusive they are. The other cast, aged from two to 60, were effortlessly brilliant, born to walk a catwalk. Mothers held babies. Grandmothers walked with their daughters. Husbands and wives and all shapes and sizes. It was brilliant and bonkers. And reader, it was mega. I’ve always dreamt of being a Dolce girl. On Sunday afternoon, I was.

Photographs: Catwalking

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