A flash of nostalgia marks anniversary

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The Independent Online

Girlie flounces and underwear worn as outerwear: it can only be Milan Fashion Week, which opened yesterday with two shows from a pair of the city's biggest brands, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani.

Celebrating their 20th year in business, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana staged a larger than usual presentation for D&G, with an all-white collection aimed at their younger and, given the sheer nature of most of their lingerie-inspired looks, most self-confident customers. Negligee-style dresses trimmed with lace and bows were either ankle-length or thigh-skimming, with occasional flashes of bra straps and French knickers, too. So far, so Seventies soft porn, a look that is arguably cute and fun on the catwalk but might require the constant presence of a bodyguard if worn in real life.

In fact, though, it is denim that is D&G's bread-and- butter product, and all those blouses trimmed with broderie anglais and pin-tucks are no doubt intended to be worn with the duo's jeans.

Underwear, which has emerged as a major trend for next spring, is more than a passing fad for D&G. The Sicilian-Milanese duo pioneered lingerie looks back in the Nineties when they sexed up the little black dress by fitting it with bra straps and corseting, and underwear details are a perennial theme for their main line collection, due to be presented on Thursday.

They are in a bullish mood, on Friday announcing a 15 per cent leap in revenue, to €686.4m (£465.4m) for the financial year that ended on 31 March, and also confirming that D&G will be from now on produced in-house, rather than under licence. "We want our brand to live forever," the designers told Women's Wear Daily.

Over at Emporio Armani, more nostalgia, at a show held in the designer's own shopping mall in the centre of Milan. Perhaps taking heed of the minimalist mood, Giorgio Armani, once the maestro of understated design, returned to a more fluid and less fussy look for his diffusion line. Jackets in houndstooth or black crepe were short with a carved-out waist, but there was an easiness to his palazzo pants and ankle-length skirts - in iridescent silver and black - which had been missing in recent years. Armani opened to the public a retrospective exhibition of photographs of his designs taken throughout his 30-year career, including work by famous names such as Steven Meisel and Peter Lindbergh. The show was staged at the behest of the Mayor of Milan, who has requested that all the major fashion houses offer events during fashion week that are open to the public, in an effort to boost the city's tourism. Likewise, the crowd at the D&G catwalk show earlier in the day was swelled by the presence of 150 students invited from six fashion colleges in Milan.