Asia is on the minds of Italy’s fashion designers and CEOs. How could it not be when Chinese shoppers are travelling the world and splashing the cash? They may not always be spending in mainland China, hence the decision by some luxury brands to lower their prices there, but they’ll be pounding pavements in Europe or America. They are a dynamic retail force and, in some ways, fashion’s future. Their online clothing sales exceed $50 billion. They are a thriving market already, but one that’s still full of opportunities for brands with the right nuance, intelligence and sensitivity. Just as at the Emporio Armani show, where Mr Armani talked of East meeting West, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were looking East and drawing inspiration from the Orient. But while Armani promised, and delivered on, ‘no hint of exoticism or ethnic nostalgia,’ the Dolce & Gabbana duo opted for a festival of the expected and the hackneyed. All the typical Oriental emblems were there - the pagodas, the dragons, the red palaces, the lanterns, the tassles. They were clashed with the usual Sicilian signatures - the saints, the fruits, the citrus hues - without any attempt to explore or understand modern Chinese culture or style. At least the pair had made no secret of this being about Asia through a European’s eyes.
Indeed, despite the mention of the Chinese Palace of Palermo being one of their inspirations, one wondered if the duo’s only understanding of the Orient came from an Italian run Chinese restaurant in Sicily, full of mock culture and obvious, outdated banalities. One wanted to admire that peacock print - surely a nod to the attention-loving street style obsessed peacock who adores top-to-toe Dolce patterns - and smile at the humour and wit the pair usually manage to weave through their work, but the clichés proved too tiresome, too distracting. Amongst all the silky tunics and bright tailoring, a t-shirt appeared with a faux historical print of several ancient Chinese men sporting conical hats and comedy moustaches. One couldn’t help but wonder what man would wear that t-shirt? Surely no Chinese shopper would want to sport such a strangely banal, unsubtle emblem of their culture and heritage, and the mind boggles at the thought of a man of a different ethnicity being so grossly out of touch and cocksure to step out with that on his chest. We live in a new world today, one where ethnicities, like identities, are both vibrant but also complex, fluid, in flux. To fetishise and ‘other’ a nation or race is to mistake and underestimate what the globalisation of fashion and the globalisation of culture actually mean. This had the sensitivity and subtlety of a tourist postcard. It was a pastiche, not a tribute or celebration.