It’s easy to tell what’s on their minds

Times Staff Writer

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have had only one thing on their minds for the last few seasons: sex. Although their spring collection seemed to be the stuff of high-end hookers, for fall, dominatrixes were front and center.

Otherwise, nothing much has changed for Dolce & Gabbana. Molded leather corsets with padded hips and lace teddies have given way to molded silver chastity belts, eye masks and crystal coated whips, while the studding on last season’s stilettos has migrated north, becoming ornament on a leather trench. The fall collection’s puckered metallic dresses were interesting, but more as objets than clothes. Meanwhile, seamed body-hugging shifts have been softened -- encased in clouds of tulle, some with feathers or even fur tucked inside. And a nude-colored sequined T-shirt with pasties sewn on the outside left little to the imagination.

Eroticism is in the cultural spotlight at the moment, with high-end sex shops such as Coco de Mer, which opened recently in L.A., angling for a segment of the luxury market, and pole dancing a popular gym workout. Then there is Dita Von Teese, the pinup turned style icon. Still, designers didn’t break any new ground here. And watching Gisele Bundchen in a rare runway appearance trying to shuffle along in 6-inch heels that were bending with every step was just excruciating, to say nothing of the poor model in the ankle-hugging hobble skirt. The finale dresses, as glittery as Fourth of July sparklers, were quite something, especially the ones that played peek-a-boo with silky sweet nothings underneath, but even they couldn’t distract from the fact that these boys haven’t a new trick in quite some time.

One thing Miuccia Prada was railing against with her ugly chic collection on Tuesday night, which still has everyone talking, was the precious, retro-couture look that several designers -- Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta included -- just can’t let go of: ladylike trapeze coats, voluminous bubble skirts, hourglass New Look silhouettes.


But with sportiness taking hold as a defining trend for fall thanks to strong collections from Marni and Gucci, and the emergence of a new, slimmer line and unfettered aesthetic at Jil Sander and Prada, who wants to fuss with all that froth?

Putting aside past dalliances with glam rock and folkloric dressing, Frida Giannini sent out her best collection yet for Gucci, inspired by such gutsy heroines as 1940s model and war photographer Lee Miller, who will be the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London next season. It was a welcome return to the mature sexiness that characterized Gucci during the Tom Ford years, and a move toward more sharply tailored sportswear emphasizing the waist.

The key piece for daytime was the aviator jacket in rich burgundy suede or green ostrich, paired with tweed knickers -- not bad as knickers go -- or high-waisted knee-length skirts or the ubiquitous skinny pant. Coats were cut slim, one in a bright pumpkin-hued wool cinched with Gucci’s newest belt, which has a giant, bow-shaped gold buckle. Giannini has always done well with girlish day dresses, and the star here was a long-sleeved 1940s number in a bluebell floral print with sculpted shoulders and a narrow skirt.

Evening came in cinematic black-and-white, with silk crepe gowns draped around the shoulders and waist, decorated with jeweled clips, starburst embroideries and other Deco touches. Presented by models with red lips and wavy, Rita Hayworth hair, these were the kinds of gowns any woman would want.

There wasn’t much news in Gucci’s accessories. Giannini’s stiletto lace-ups were nice enough, especially in black and gold, as were her platform stiletto Mary Janes in glossy calf leather. Riding boots with gilded hardware looked right, especially with the knickers. But the new bag, an uninspiring duffle, wasn’t much to lust after.

For once, the clothes seemed to be Giannini’s main focus, and it paid off. After a few wobbly seasons, this collection was dangerously close to becoming nothing more than window dressing for an accessories empire. Let’s hope this confident step indicates a more powerful position for Gucci’s ready to wear going forward.

Marni’s Consuelo Castiglioni was one of the trailblazers of the new sportiness, putting leggings under airy dresses for spring. For fall, she took the idea forward with a collection that swelled with ideas about indoor-outdoor layers, punching up muddy colors with pops of bright green, blue and mustard. Pleated and folded tunic dresses are still the foundation, the best in swirled color or blue tile prints, except now they have nylon hoodies layered underneath or zip front coats worn over top.

Some jackets were shaped by drawstring waists, others cut in stiff PVC. Beaver fur coats, cinched with utility belts, came sleeveless, with shaggy astrakhan mittens or quilted arm warmers standing in for sleeves. Fur helmets emblazoned with crystals fastened under the chin, and the house’s now signature collar necklaces came in painted latex.


Stirrups have been popping up all over the place this season, on pants at Marc Jacobs and Max Mara among others, and knee socks made an appearance at Marni and at Prada. Say it isn’t so!

The designers at Max Mara have a way of hitting on all the trends, even if they don’t always do it well. They mined the sporty theme, churning out some rather odd-looking nylon jumpers and onesies that resembled ski suits. Fall’s penchant for military-like tailoring came out in a blinding yellow jacket worn over trousers so baggy and wide, the waistband was folded in the front. The 1980s rewind was here too, with cobalt blue and orange tartan stirrup pants (not attractive) and glossy patent leather bomber jackets.

Much of Max Mara’s business is in coats, which came in ankle-sweeping lengths, some sporting fringe around the shoulders that looked as if it had been dread locked. Isn’t it enough having to worry about a bad hair day, never mind a bad coat day?