Two weeks ago, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were planning to show a collection, which called for the physical presence of people from near and far. When travel limitations got in the way, the designers scrapped the idea and redid the whole thing. The transformed Dolce & Gabbana you see on this runway—captured in Milan without an audience—was the result of an exhilarating marathon design process recapped in one word: spontaneity. “Something new?” Gabbana offered on the phone, breaking out in laughter.
Spurred by the e-boy/e-girl motif that loosely informed their December couture collections, the designers decided to go all in.
The collection was a portrait of the generations growing up on social media, a boundary-breaking global digital community built on spontaneous self-expression.
Gabbana was the first to admit that vivid cyber-dressing like the digitalized pop futurism he and Dolce presented today isn’t exactly an expression of his personal wardrobe.
Nor are they posting selfies on Instagram, making homemade dance clips for TikTok, or doing whatever you do on Twitch. “I’m not a part of it because I’m 58; I’m not 25. I just look on from the outside.
But Domenico and I are very curious about it. The new always comes from the young. Our job is to pay attention to them.” This was an invitation for cross-generational dialogue. “All our assistants are between 20 and 30. Domenico and I, we are the hens,” Gabbana laughed. “All the time, throughout the day, we’re asking them what they think about things, how they would wear it, what they’d think if their girlfriend wore it. We talk a lot.”
This season’s youth-quake in the Metropol wasn’t simply an exercise of hip motifs and fabric treatments, but a considered alteration of silhouette that never felt desperate.
Gone was the dandy neatness of tapered trousers cut at the ankle and worn with a fancy loafer; in their place, the designers flexed their master tailor skills in an elongated line spontaneously ruched at the hem.
Blazers felt roomier. Some even morphed into workwear. It was a good color on Dolce & Gabbana.
The freedom of identity the designers see in their young employees reminded them of their own 20s, when subcultural masculinities would defy the conservatism of the 1980s with all the nail varnish, lipstick, and quiffs it took to make a statement.
You could trace the parallels in the full faces of makeup that walked the show like something out of an ’80s beauty campaign—but on boys. (Cover your eyes, Candace Owens!)
“When we painted guys’ nails and put makeup on for our D&G campaigns in the ’90s, we had a lot of problems with ‘the grand jury.’ Ooh!” Gabbana recalled, referring to the Italian advertising regulators. “We were just totally open to the freedom.”Gabbana
Now less about sexuality, young self-expression is “very spontaneous, very pop,” he observed. It’s true not least for the fact that the social media generations freely adopt and adapt fashion references from before they were alive.
Take for instance the eternal codes of D&G, the convention-bending diffusion line of the ’90s and ’00s, so prolifically—and unconsciously—evoked in the streetwear of today. “Some of this reminds me of pieces from D&G. We sense the same feeling now as when we created D&G. It’s two very different times, but there is something very similar,” Gabbana said.
Looking back at D&G today, its irreverence paints something of a contrast to the strong focus on Italian craftsmanship, amore e bellezza, and infinite Sicilian influences that have embodied Dolce & Gabbana’s work over the last decade.
Visually, this collection marked a timely evolution from that territory, but despite the show’s Justin Bieber soundtrack and video appearance from Sia, the designers’ makeover didn’t try to cover up the wisdom gained with age.
Between the kaleidoscopic shine, puff, and iridescence that make an e-boy’s heart grow fonder, they specked the collection with emblems of heritage menswear—formidable overcoats, suits patchworked from classic sartorial cloths—and cheeky nods to fashion history.
A bouclé jacket, for instance, evoked a certain Parisian fashion icon, while a big rectangular bag drew the mind to that of an equestrian maison.
It’s inevitably the old thing to say, but given new life by the rave-y contrasts that framed them, those perfect classics were particularly alluring. (Select looks are already available on Farfetch.) “It’s nice to show this generation what we know,” Gabbana said.
“We grew a lot since the 1990s: tailoring, craftsmanship, this kind of work. We’ve applied these ideas to the young generation.”Gabbana
For Dolce & Gabbana, who released some 10 collections last year alone, this one was different; an unpredictable move that felt like the beginning of a chapter that beckons exploration. “What impresses me is their spontaneity,” Gabbana reiterated of the social media generation. “I was like that in my 20s, but I’ve lost it with age.” I don’t know, Stefano—your collection suggested otherwise!