D&G turn Scottish as Armani looks east at Milan

MILAN, Italy, Feb 19, 2008 (AFP) - Dolce and Gabbana transformed a Milan catwalk into a Caledonian ball with swishing plaid gowns Monday, as Giorgio Armani harked to the Asian steppes while adding a fandango twist.

The iconoclastic duo of Stefano Gabbana and Dominico Dolce, best known for their sexy corsets, veered to the Scottish Highlands for next autumn-winter, using a plethora of plaid and tartan to highlight dirndl-inspired dresses, peasant skirts, and flouncy gowns with plain or muttonchop necks.

Their palette -- boringly tame by D&G standards -- centred around olive greens, brown, copper, rust and black but allowed them to experiment with colour in accessories such as canary yellow boots.

Unlike past offerings, their current crop would have elicited the approval of the most exacting Victorian matron, and grandmother's blessings to boot.

The house of Gianfranco Ferre meanwhile opted for soft lines, paying homage to the body as uncluttered blouses, gowns and boleros fell into folds on the back with effortless ease.

"Clothes are the textile expressions of architecture designed for the body and on the body," he said in an interview before his untimely death last June.

"Only the body can make the clothes come to life..."

Ferre's apres-ski wear included a stunning deep-necked midnight blue gown, a black faux snakeskin smock with two flaps running from the shoulder and tucked in at the hem.

Coats and dresses appeared straight but rich in feminine grace due to a pair of darts at the waist and fabrics encompassed satin, muslin, organza and velvet drape.

On coats, lapels were often shifted to the back while the house cocked a snook at political correctness by extravagantly using fur: mink, fox and breitschwanz, in both long-hair and sheared forms.

A sheer white blouse worn by a size zero model was a study in simplicity with a bib-like front held together by a red bow.

The fashion staple had been hailed by Ferre as an "austere and stately" garment, which according to him "shows a gift for taking on an infinity of infinities."

The streamlined collection betrayed no sign of the turmoil the house may have faced since the hasty departure of 41-year-old creative designer Lars Nilsson.

The Swede, who earlier worked at Christian Lacroix, Balmain, Dior, Bill Blass, and Nina Ricci, was appointed to the job in September after Ferre's demise. But he quit without warning weeks ahead of the current Milan autumn-fall 2008-2009 women's fashion week.

Armani, whose earlier showing of his second line Emporio Armani collection was confined to blacks and grays, opted for the dazzling shades of the Central Asian steppes for his eponymous label.

Letting his imagination run riot, Armani showed off gowns with flared skirts embossed with poppy red and aquamarine flowers that evoked Chinese and Mongolian designs, paired with delicate mantilla lookalikes with fringes.

A fluorescent blue and green dress was confectioned from curly stripes resembling bus tickets or ticker tape. Accessories were bright and chunky but never out of place.

The house of Missoni shed its squeamish colour scheme to churn out traffic-stopping clothes in bright tones including an electric blue wool dress, and a terracotta off-the-shoulder blouse worn atop a mustard skirt.

A host of big local names yet have to show their collections at Milan, the second most important event in the global fashion calendar, including Prada, La Perla, Salvatore Ferragamo, Moschino, Trussardi, Fendi, Krizia and Emilio Pucci.by Abhik Kumar Chanda

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