Several weeks ago, the Italian designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce had an idea that was either brilliant or really terrible. Why not put on a fashion show using amateur models instead of professionals? They wanted to use mothers and daughters, fathers and babies, friends and boyfriends, people of all ages and sizes. “It’s not just a fashion show, it’s generations!” Gabbana told me in Milan last Sunday, an hour before the experiment hit the runway.The Dolce & Gabbana team had compiled a list of more than a hundred and twenty-five favorite clients of the fashion house, influential millennials with large social-media followings (“influencers”), members of royal families, and celebrity dynasties whom they wanted to participate. Harley Viera-Newton, a Los Angeles-based d.j., received her invitation via e-mail. “I wasn’t sure if it was real,” she told me. “It sounded crazy.” She was standing backstage, wearing a lacy black bustier under a robe. “I’m terrified,” she confided.
On the runways, it has been a season of diversity and inclusivity. Earlier this month, a model walked the Yeezy New York show in a hijab, and plus-size models appeared at Michael Kors, Prabal Gurung, and on the March cover ofVogue. As Dolce discovered, the problem with eschewing fashion norms is that regular humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Models, by contrast, are living El Grecos who wear, almost without exception, an elongated size 2 dress, with a size 10 shoe.“Obviously, I’m not a sample size,” Susan Casden, a Los Angeles haute-couture client, said, when I bumped into her backstage. She wore a plunging transparent black lace gown over a black onesie; her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Alyssa Fung, was in hair-and-makeup. “Domenico prepared a couple of choices for me,” Casden said. When I asked her age, she inhaled. “I’m fifty-eight,” she said. “I’m standing tall.”
Dolce normally does two days of model fittings for a show. For this one, he said, “I worked like a tailor for five days.” He seemed elated. “We call this the new renaissance. Me and Stefano look at the world with new eyes.” Gabbana told me that the label made twenty-five hundred items of apparel for the show’s roughly hundred and forty looks. There was plenty of extra clothing left over. “Do you want to be in it?” he asked me. “I’ll put you in makeup right now!”