Sicilian, stylish and sensual. No prizes for guessing which designers we're talking about. Indeed, the words were writ large across the dynamic, digital backdrop to Dolce e Gabbana's extravaganza of a show, as video screens alongside the catwalk relayed scenes from backstage, celebrities took their seats in the front row and the entire event was broadcast live over the Internet.
But, when the lights went down, it was all about the clothes. And just in case we were in any doubt where our attentions should lie, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana treated their captive audience to a snippet of their hard labour in the workrooms via a gritty documentary short (well, less of the grit honestly) played at the head of the catwalk. It was what was behind the clothes both figuratively and literally - for Autumn/Winter 2010, Dolce e Gabbana are all about the clothes, they're pulling back from the glitter, taking stock, and above all restraining themselves. For this collection, there was lots of black, lots of knit, and lots and lots of tailoring - albeit shown over tantalisingly little bar black knickers (we can only assume they were there with the longer coats). Knee-length, or cropped, double or single breasted, there were infinite variations: the show closed with every model sporting one, if you hadn't caught their drift.
A little propriety is a good thing given these tough times, especially from the masters of the overblown gesture, but in pulling back to such a degree, it felt that perhaps D&G had gone P.C. There was something prim about this collection, despite all the sensual underwear as outerwear. Corselet tops were rendered in curvy knits with giant pants or pencil skirt-cum-girdle. Sounds full-on, but it was timid compared to the slap-and-tickle we saw last season. Dresses in scarlet and sulphur-yellow satin had inlays of black lace in cross-my-heart patterns like souped-up lingerie, while other models wore tweedy Chanel-style cardigan-suits in cream, emerald green or (naturally) black that fell open to reveal camisoles. When a bra-strap flashed or a slither of lacy slip emerged, it was done with a coy, even bashful air: none of that confident, hyper-sexualised Dolce e Gabbana vixen this season. Fashion's favourite Catholic girl seems to have gone Puritan.
The difficult thing about this collection was that, technically, it was superb - as that film behind the model's heads testified. You couldn't fault the filmy cocktail frocks in spun-lace, polkas dots and blown-up leopard, and chintzy, archival rose-prints strewn across coats and tight stretch-satin bustier-dresses. But there wasn't the emotion, the energy, the indefinable va-va-voom that so informed last season's blockbuster. It spluttered into life, occasionally - some heavily-worked passementerie-crusted pieces had the wow factor, and that wonderful basta-factor of glorious excess came through in a couple of bustiers hung with lockets and medallions like a rural Madonna. But even they were teamed not with stockings, but those knee-high socks. Designers, make a note: women may be shying away from ostentation, but they certainly aren't turning their back on sex appeal.