You can't get much more Italian than a Dolce & Gabbana show. From the tanned fashion press in sunglasses and head-to-toe black, to the seductive lace creations that are one of the label's signatures, there is no mistaking where designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are from – and where their hearts belong.
This Italianate vision is no accident. While the designers are inspired by Italian films – such as the work of the director Luchino Visconti and the culture of Domenico Dolce's native Sicily – their use of familiar Baroque and Catholic imagery has let them develop both an immediately recognisable signature look and a sense of heritage that has turned them into one of the best-known Italian labels. Established in 1985, the brand now encompasses womenswear and menswear, fragrance, underwear, sunglasses and make-up.
For yesterday's spring/summer 2011 show, the backdrop was a whitewashed wall that evoked a Sicilian house. Projected against this were black and white images of mothers and children, Madonna – the face of their current ad campaigns and no stranger to leaning on Catholic imagery in her music – and Mediterranean landscapes. This season, their inspiration came from the traditional bridal trousseaus of southern Italy, and was based around, "a more relaxed kind of elegance and tradition".
The collection focused on white dresses with a more innocent sensuality than the overt sexuality that the Dolce & Gabbana woman often conveys. Fabrics included embroidered bed linens and tablecloths, evoking heirlooms and reinforcing the label's emphasis on roots and heritage. Other materials included chiffon, brocade, jersey lace, macramé and crochet. Among the clothes were dresses with a fitted bodice and long full skirts, signature fitted pencil dresses in stretch lace and linen with appliquéd lace, lace-trimmed linen playsuits, cotton and lace drawstring jumpsuits, late Fifties-style boxy jackets and skirts in lace, cotton peasant blouses and jumpsuits. The collection hinted at a trademark opulence: crystals sewn on to crocheted dresses and cropped jackets and skirts.
The finale consisted of an army of models in underwear, that essential part of any bridal trousseau. In keeping with the whole collection it was in white silk, lace and cotton and exuded a surface innocence.
Like Dolce & Gabbana, Marni has a distinctive aesthetic, but it couldn't be further from the sensual Sicilian look. Consuelo Castiglioni's offbeat, arty label is known for quirky prints evoking Seventies furnishings, unusual shapes and surprising colour combinations. This season, a strong sportswear theme was discernible in a more aerodynamic silhouette than Marni often shows.
Cycling shorts were teamed with fitted tops in technological fabrics reminiscent of cycling vests – except that they came with a frill at the hem.