The great thing about fashion is that, like the Queen, when it celebrates a birthday it gets to roll it out the festivities twice in a single year. Hence, in the twentieth year of the Dolce e Gabbana man, one whirlwind multi-model spectacular simply wasn't enough. After their return to Sicilian roots, simple tailoring and the rugged all-Italian male last season, for Spring/Summer 2011 Domenico and Stefano reasoned that the time felt ripe for, well, more of the same.
The models set the tone - this is menswear after all, and D&G's twenty years in the suiting and booting business makes their label a few years older than many of the hot male models offered by other designers. So instead of adolescent boys, we had a clutch of rugged faces past and present - the ideal hyper-masculine Dolce e Gabbana male, it seems, sits somewhere between the designer stubble of David Gandy, the chiselled jaw of Tyson Ballou and Madonna's Boy Toy Tony Ward (not much to live up to then). The latter - a male model revived from the label's inception back in the early nineties - also seemed to underscore some of the clothing ideas. Dolce e Gabbana revived their loosely-fitted suits of the same period, in crumpled linens with seams turned inside out and left to unravel, worn with simple, unstructured plimsoles crafted from plaited leather. Vintage black-and-white snaps of the Mediterranean coastline and a few Henri Cartier-Bresson images of divers underlined the general gist - think beach holiday in Capri circa 1935, and the clobber any young F. Scott Fitzgerald-style character would cram into his Vuitton trunks for such an escapade. Thus we had knitted one-piece swimsuits in shades of cappuccino tan, classic (and, it must be said, generously proportioned) grey jersey underwear worn with billowing silk beach-robes, louche Suddenly Last Summer lounge suiting in black, ivory and chalky-white, and a clutch of rolled-up shorts strapped every which-way with picturesque fishing-twine.
All fine and serviceable from a summer collection - indeed, with those raw-hems, weatherbeaten fabrics and hand-knotted rope belts and sandals, it felt as if these clothes had perhaps already been on summer holiday, distressed to sartorial postcard perfection. But overall, they took a back seat. It felt as if this show was about a celebration of the might and the mystique of the Dolce e Gabbana label rather than the clothes on offer. Rounds of applause were elicited by the arrival of the celebrity-packed front row, by the (admittedly fine) live performance of singer Annie Lennox, and by the appearance of those vintage male supermodels - but, markedly, not by stand-out fashion statments. Maybe this was intentional - Dolce e Gabbana have been moving away from their flashy (and slightly trashy) past excesses over the past few seasons - the all-black tuxedo finale of this show was a direct mirror to their womenswear offering back in February, again focusing on the discrete distinction between shades of black and minute tailoring details. A quieter presentation would have allowed us to hear the persuasive whisper of their charms far clearer.