February 20, 2006

Something for all tastes as D&G kick off Milan shows

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

MILAN (Reuters) - Milan's fashion heavyweights offered
something for everyone on Monday, as a week of catwalk shows
and glitzy parties kicked off with a tongue-in-cheek Winter
Wonderland at D&G and shimmering uptown chic at Armani.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana dazzled Milan's usually
jaded fashionistas with their diffusion D&G line, turning this
summer's lacy looks into an all-white collection of sexy woolen
minidresses, chunky knits and oh-so-tiny hotpants.

The duo put a dash of glamour back in apres-ski boots and
thermal underwear with delicate cashmere briefs and knitted
leggings worn with chunky clogs or tasseled white snow boots.

But nothing could have prepared the fashion crowd for the
D&G kitschy piece-de-resistance that emerged to close the show
from a backdrop of pine trees and a blizzard of fake snow.

To laughter, thunderous applause and the strains of Mariah
Carey, the famously extravagant D&G brought out Father
Christmas himself at the wheel of a sleigh packed with dancing

The main Dolce & Gabbana line will be shown on Thursday.

Across Milan, a more sedate Giorgio Armani took inspiration
from his early work for a Winter 2006/07 collection that saw
models strut out in the crisp-but-sexy tailleurs that made him
the iconic designer of the 1980s.

Nipped jackets, plunging necklines and figure-hugging
pencil skirts -- all in sleek gray, black, amethyst purple or
garnet red -- were paired with vertiginous heels and tiny,
coquettish hats worn at a slant over tightly coifed hair.

Speaking after the show, Armani said the collection --
which featured skirts in all shapes and sizes but not a single
pair of trousers -- was about rediscovering feminine grace.

"A woman always wants to be more beautiful, but in the name
of creativity we have killed off femininity," he said. "This
womanliness must be celebrated, without being vulgar."

With Oscar night around the corner, the designer brought
out outfits for the red carpet, from strapless diva dresses and
jeweled necklines to a lame dress with a sheer silver top --
for the more daring clients of the normally conservative

At Jil Sander, Belgian designer Raf Simons made his
womenswear debut with a collection that stuck to the fashion
house's tradition of minimalist, monochrome chic.

Simons, who specializes in menswear, took over at Jil
Sander last May after the eponymous designer left the fashion
house, now part of the Prada group.

His collection included classic black masculine blazers,
wide collarless jackets in wool and leather worn with tapered
trousers and wedge boots, but also extra-long, flowing skirts.

"It's in line with the house style, and that style works,"
one Italian critic said after the show.

The former industrial designer took the almost stern edge
off the collection with sleek evening and cocktail dresses
including languid velvet outfits and a steel-gray silk backless
number knotted at the front.

Tuesday's line-up in Milan includes Prada and Emilio Pucci,
the Florentine fashion house famous for its swirling patterns
where London designer Matthew Williamson will make his debut.