Realism enters Italian fashion

DOLCE e Gabbana are the popular face of Italian fashion. Every season, without fail, the duo of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana serve up a theme, from urchins to hippies to Scicilian virgins, and turn it into a look that is commercial; it works, it sells.

Generally the show is a theatrical, stagey performance. But their latest collection - revealed on the opening morning of the Milan autumn/winter 1994/95 fashion shows - was remarkably restrained.

Razor sharp suits with draped jackets and drainpipes or teeny A-line mini-skirts made the strongest cleanest statement.

The colours were equally minimal; black, bitter chocolate and ivory, with sparkly bright sequins and deep red glossy velvet the only relief.

The collection was boyishly androgenous. It worked perfectly on all the girls: from Isabella Rossellini, actually a woman of 41, to Kate 'the rake' Moss, her hair swept back into a teddy boy DA complete with lacquer defying quiff.

It looked like the Jets were meeting the Sharks in a Milanese version of West Side Story.

The styling was typically droll, fake snake skin and zebra winklepickers, natty fedoras and mirrored shades. But otherwise things were kept simple. The days of Dolce e Gabbana providing three act dramas are over.

Usually the pair can be relied upon for the ruffled and swagged evening gowns of two true romantics. Perhaps they are keeping all of these for their separate - and successful - wedding dress line, which has its own shop in Milan. For yesterday, their evening wear comprised simple columns of cherry red velvet.

But it looked good. This new found rigour made a clean break from their sometimes cluttered past and reflects a mood of realism which is sweeping through the fashion world.

(Photograph omitted)