D&G Spring 2013 RTW: Colors and Controversy

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the duo behind the ever-glamorous Dolce and Gabbana, debuted their Spring 2013 RTW collection in Milan this past week. A mix of vibrant colors, loose caftan silhouettes, and statement-grabbing accessories characterized their newest collection, which was inspired by Sicily, Domenico Dolce’s homeland. Dolce and Gabbana debuted eighty-five new looks that evoked a sense of casual chic on the beach, not too serious but still conscious of glamour. Particularly beautiful was the use of stripes in this collection. They popped up at various points, in all different forms, but somehow they never felt old or overused. Preview these three looks, in which stripes of all different colors and sizes are showcased.

Images courtesy of dolcegabbana.com

In addition to stripes, Dolce and Gabbana debuted eye-catching prints with scenes that directly spoke of Sicily. This dress, pictured below, has a particularly vibrant and complex print of the Pupi Siciliani, which are unique marionettes that represent the paladins or knights of King Charlemagne. The use of many divergent colors in the dress, both warm and cool, reflects the kaleidoscope of colors utilized in this collection’s palette. These graphic prints illustrate the technical talent of the designers but also show a movement toward incorporating technology into fashion. These prints, much like those of contemporary design team, Basso & Brooke, signal a movement away from overused patterns and simplistic prints. Instead, these designers encourage the fashion conscious to be daring—to choose prints or patterns that tell a story and make a complex statement of their own.

Image courtesy of dolcegabbana.com

Amid the cheery tone cast by a majority of the garments, however, was a problem that has caused much controversy in the past week. In some of the garments, most noticeably the graphic prints, and in the accessories, are images of a black woman that resemble the “mammy.” The mammy is an overweight, African-American woman who was known in post-bellum America as being content in her servitude. Characterized by her round eyes, exaggerated mouth, and full face, scholars today have noted how she is a stereotype created by white male artists and writers in post-bellum America. The mammy is a stereotype that demeans the worth of African-American women and essentially desexualizes them. Why, then, would this image be used in a collection about returning to Sicily?

Image courtesy of shine.yahoo.com

According to Dolce and Gabbana’s official website, swide.com, the dark heads portrayed are not images of a mammy but that of Moorish people: “The head is inspired by traditional Moorish people, a term used to describe the Medieval Muslim inhabitants of Sicily—a place that consistently inspires Dolce & Gabbana designs and the native country of Domenico Dolce.” So while the use of the Mammy image might not have been intentional, it certainly has stirred up discussion about the use of racial stereotypes in fashion and brings up concerns about fetishizing and objectifying other cultures.

Although you would not want to incorporate any of those ambiguous racially charged images into your fall wardrobe at UNC, the other looks presented by D&G show that summer is not over yet! Keep mixing colors, both warm and cool, pile on the earrings and headscarves, make use of stripes, and try a graphic print that tells a story.

Sources Used:

“Moorish Heads Ceramics on the DG SS13 Runway.” Swide. Dolce & Gabbana, 23 Sep 2012. Web. 30 Sep 2012. <http://www.swide.com/luxury-magazine/Faces/Artists/caltagirone-ceramics-in-ss-2013-women-fashion-show-dolcegabbana-collection/2012/9/23&gt;.

Morgan, Jo-Ann. “Mammy the Huckster.” American Art. 9.1 (1995): 86-107. Web. 30 Sep. 2012.