"We’re in a brave new world now," said Stefano Gabbana at the unveiling of his brand’s autumn/ winter 22 men’s collection in Milan. "So it felt right to try something new and step out of our comfort zone." The designer, alongside his partner Domenico Dolce, certainly did that, in a form of a leap towards Gen Z and the kind of wardrobes that the Tiktok generation want today.
Dolce & Gabbana are known for their sense of showmanship, as well as their soft-focus romanticism with regards to all things Italianate and evocatively traditional, but this time around they were firmly future looking; edgy shapes, sharp, lean-as-whip suits and riotous graffiti emblazoned across voluminous, pillowy puffas and ski suits. Their muse was the LA rapper Machine Gun Kelly, known for his gangly frame, tattoos and high octane Instagram theatrics with his girlfriend Megan Fox; in short, the kind of bad boy that you don’t take home to mamma. But that’s precisely the point. The singer performed on the catwalk in a stone-riddled, slender suit, dutifully fulfilling the rock star requirements expected of him by peeling off his jacket to reveal a tattooed torso and kicking over a mic stand.
The singer’s signature sweeping coats and fondness for a hefty jewellery were evident on the catwalk, as were the kind of shapes and proportions that are commonplace in the LA environs of Calabasas rather than the Messrs Dolce & Gabbana’s native Bel Paese. Swamping, swaddling, oversized outerwear featured heavily; perfect for our Covid times because the sheer circumference and mass enforces social distancing. Other renegade elements included graffiti by the artist Rocco Pezzella sprayed across coats, suits and shirts. ‘It’s a complete departure from our DNA. We need new stimulus, we like the idea of experimenting and going in the opposite direction for a change.
About those suits; tailoring has always been backbone of Dolce & Gabbana’s menswear, a love letter to Domenico Dolce’s upbringing in Sicily as the son of a tailor. The shapes are always unashamedly masculine and impeccable; strong shoulders, handsome pinstripes and a classic silhouette. This time around, the designers’ ripped up the rule book, focusing instead on narrow, razor-sharp proportions, sculptural torsos, mutton sleeves and jackets with lapels shorn off, for a cleaner, more minimalist stance. It’s an interesting departure from the norm; at a time when traditional suiting has been decimated by the pandemic and the rise of work-from-home loungewear, Dolce & Gabbana are clearly intent on modernising the tailoring proposal. The craft and skill of execution was certainly still in evidence - Fatto a Mano, the importance of artisanal handcraft, is a big preoccupation for the designers, and for this collection they worked with furriers to develop a fake fur; in doing so they secured the factory’s future after threats of closure.
Sumptuous eveningwear has also been a signature of the house in the past, but the iteration in this collection was edgier; matte sequins instead of glitz, and skin-tight rather than softly louche. Less aperitivo hour, more underground club. ‘We’re in a moment between two eras right now,’ said Gabbana. ‘It’s time to question what we know’. We’re not in Kansas (or Milan) anymore, and it’s refreshing - and rather energising - to see Dolce & Gabbana mix things up and explore new territory.