When Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana said they were taking inspiration from Sicily for their Spring 2013 men’s collection, they meant it quite literally. Seventy boys and men from the island, where the label is originally from, were plucked from the streets and brought over to Milan to walk in the duo’s garbs.
The scene on the runway was an overt nod to retro Sicily: lean, olive-skinned boys and moustached men alike took to the runway in an array of belted, high-waisted shorts, soft three-piece suits, carnival-striped shirts and souvenir prints. Though the collection itself has received mostly positive reviews, the fleet of Sicilians was definitely the most standout aspect of the entire show, offering an “authentic emotional punch” that had most of the industry captivated.
It’s no big secret that the fashion industry is on a never-ending search for “the next big thing,” something to shake jaded fashion watchers out of their doldrums and inject excitement into their ennui. Several years ago, style bloggers and street style photographers seemed to offer something more raw and authentic than the traditional fashion circuit, but as the popularity of blogging rose, its “edge” seemed to slowly wear off. Though fashion blogging is still alive and well, its novelty has waned. With street style photography, what used to be an unfiltered take on what real people were wearing on the streets has exploded into a veritable zoo during fashion weeks and outside of fashion hot spots.
“Garance was going to shoot one of these Russian young ladies and liked her outfit on a particular day and asked, what’s in your bag? And she goes, ‘Oh, nothing.’ And of course it was some designer bag—a really expensive bag and it’s totally empty,” Scott Schuman told Style.com, summing up the changes in the industry’s approach to “street style” nicely.
This is perhaps why someone like Rick Genest (a.k.a. Zombie Boy) has been so readily embraced by the industry as of late. A native of Montreal, where he was a fixture in the city’s underground punk scene, his unique tapestry of body art (which, as his name implies, makes him look like a corpse) quickly caught the eye of Lady Gaga’s collaborator and Mugler creative director Nicola Formichetti, who quickly took Genest on as a muse. A Gaga collaboration, a Vogue Hommes cover and a recently inked deal as L’Oréal’s latest Dermablend spokesperson later, and Genest’s days as a squeegee boy could not seem more distant.
Dolce and Gabbana isn’t the first fashion house to send non-models down the runway either; last season, Prada enlisted a group of actors to model their menswear line, including Jamie Bell, Gary Oldman and Willem Defoe. Though not “real people,” they too brought a breath of fresh air to the runway, putting a personality behind the clothes instead of a mannequin, which is often what most models are.
Could this real-people-as-models phenomenon be the raw take on fashion that the industry has been searching for? Will other designers follow suit, replacing trained models by street casting as Dolce and Gabbana did?
Stefano Gabbana: “We wanted to put our clothes on real men because fashion should be for real people.” [ABC]
Elisa della Barba: “[…] Fishermen, students, lifeguards were in the backstage and then on the catwalk: what amazed me most was the transparency, the truth in their eyes. It was a glimpse of their souls that mirrored Sicily’s charm […]” [Swide]
Caitlin Agnew, assistant editor/research: “I love the authenticity of these Sicilian models; they lend a certain natural air to the show. While they looked great within the theme of this Dolce & Gabbana collection, I don’t see “real people” — especially not women or girls — replacing professional models anytime soon. Fantasy plays a huge role in the fashion industry, and Gisele gets paid the big bucks for a reason.”
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