All photos: Sonny Vandevelde
There are two schools of designers – those who view fashion as serious business, and those who see it as spectacle. The first set typically puts on a somber presentation, where the clothes are expected to speak for themselves. The second pushes theatrics; a giant iceberg on the catwalk, or a live performance by Annie Lennox. DSquared falls firmly into the latter category. Their shows are pure cabaret; camp, outrageous and non-stop entertainment. Last season they chose horror films as inspiration, with blood splattered models walking out alongside the gender-bending lead singer from emo band Tokio Hotel. This time around it was Richard Gere's Julian from American Gigolo. In lieu of show notes, an eviction letter sat on each seat, but alongside the grim news came words of advice: "Get it chic and sleek and back to the street: you better hustle, rent is due!"
Which brand did Julian famously wear? Armani. Fitting then, that it was the first show of the day. Armani headquarters, where both the Emporio and Giorgio shows are held each season, is an enormous grey complex in South West Milan. The building stands on a 300 metre-long dead end road, and stretches almost the entire length. It's a superb example of architectural minimalism; all polished concrete, glass walls and no extraneous details. Except, perhaps one. While noseying around the various rooms coming off the main hall, I discovered the men's bathroom. All was as you'd expect, besides that ten metre long waterfall masquerading as a urinal. Even in the most austere surroundings there's always room for a bit of Italian flair.
Giorgio Armani was another label to show a casual alternative to conservative suiting this season, like relaxed woolen trousers paired with laundered cotton blazers or sweaters. Mismatched suits appeared throughout; a seriously fitted jacket above baggy pants, similar-but-different-coloured tops and bottoms, and clashing patterns like houndstooth against vertical stripes. When full suits did show up, they were smart double breasted numbers worn with a tee shirt, or cotton casual, shrunk and wrinkled like they'd been washed and dried a hundred times. Charcoal was the shade du jour, but a little burst of sunlight popped up in yellow sweaters, shoes, glasses and a single tulip decorating a series of tuxedo jackets. The best bits were the 80s throwbacks; voluminous double or triple pleated pants, and a white cotton double breasted suit worn oversized and open.
But back to those Caten twins. They're so overt in their crass references, you can't help but get sucked in. (It's not dissimilar to that song We're All a Little Bit Racist from Avenue Q.) This time it was 80s LA – all greed, excess consumption, fame whoring and sex. The soundtrack spoke a thousand words: Blondie's Call Me blared as the curtains drew open to reveal a life size replica of the American Gigolo's bedroom. The clothes were all seduction; silk shirts unbuttoned low and tucked into bootleg jeans so tight in the crotch that nothing was left to the imagination, power blazers, and speedos worn with tuxedo jackets.
While the show was in full swing, a buff Brazilian stripped in the bedroom, hung himself upside down from a high bar and proceeded to do a full set of suspended sit ups. The message was clear – focus on the body and the mind will follow. Or maybe they were just offering a sure fire way to get through those recession blues – and have a little fun on the side. Whichever way you look at it, the most surprising part was that those Richard Gere outfits actually look pretty good 30 years later. Lucky then, that we've got a whole year's worth of working out to get in before next summer.
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