From the earliest parts of the 15th century until almost the 20th, Sicily and most of Southern Italy were under the control of Spain. Despite the fact Spain’s string of kings rarely visited the region and bribery and corruption became common place, the aesthetic and artistic influence of Spain is still strong and it’s long-term presence is one still noticeable across the region. Such is the influence for Dolce & Gabbana’s spring/summer 2015 collection.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana literally turned the runway red with this Spanish-inspired collection that is heavy on embellishment, tradition, and no small amount of stereotype. Bollero jackets and high-waist shorts are the order of the day and at no point did that look go away for too terribly long. Some of the jackets were embellished with rich embroidery of Spanish designs while others were encrusted heavily with large and ostentatious jewels. The period of Spanish rule was one that brought tremendous wealth to Naples and the surrounding area and that opulence is readily reflected in many of the styles we see in this collection. [We’ll just conveniently ignore for now that most of that wealth was held by the city’s elite and never made it’s way into the general economy. Sound familiar?]

Flemenco dresses with their broad, swirling skirts and matador outfits with their skin-tight pants also take a dominant role in this collection. Again, super-heavy embellishment makes every piece unique and defies any sense of just ordinary costuming. While there are touches of modernity tossed in, such as a jewel-encrusted pair of jeans and tight-fitting bustiers and corsets, the vast majority of this collection plays to the historical silhouettes common among the bourgeois rulers of the period. If one is familiar with Bizet’s opera, Carmen, one understands the aesthetic of the collection.

Standing out in this typically large collection are the various treatments given to the large number of white shirts seen this season. Starched, white, buttoned to the neck and unforgiving, the shirts start almost as an accessory under the numerous bolero jackets and matador suits. As the presentation grows long, though, the shirts are treated as garments on their own and given the same over-the-top embellishment seen in the rest of the collection. What makes the shirts different is how much the embellishment really pops against the bright white fabric.

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the fantastic ponchos and capes included in this season. Even if one does not like, or fit, the highly tailored Spanish looks, these beautifully embroidered pieces are extremely artistic, heirloom quality garments that are likely to be mainstays of one’s wardrobe for many, many seasons.

Is it ironic that the design duo convicted of tax evasion earlier this year would choose one of the most politically corrupt periods in Sicilian history as the influence for their extremely popular clothing line? Maybe. Only a handful of whispers were heard this afternoon regarding the legal ramifications if the scheduled appeals fail to overturn the designer’s convictions. With everything else going on around Milan at the moment, it was a topic no one really wanted to discuss.

As always, the show ended with an army of identically dressed models, this time dressed in white shirts and red shorts. The crowd roared its approval much as they might a congratulate a troupe of triumphant toreadors. Whatever problems might be going on behind the scenes, Dolce & Gabbana is still an incredibly popular brand all around the world and this collection is likely to keep that trend going for quite some time.

Photo credit: Yannis Vlamos

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