MILAN, Italy — Like children who are growing up, so-called "secondary" collections have assumed many identities over the years.
When collections such as Dolce & Gabbana's D&G, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti and Gianni Versace's Versus were launched, they were treated as lower-priced imitations of the main designer collections. As they progressed, some took on more rebellious, juvenile attitudes, while others were used as an introduction to the top line.
Those collections aren't secondary anymore. The designers' offspring have matured with fully realized identities and a new strength that helps them stand on their own, even as they mirror trends in the main collections. Leading the pack is Donatella Versace's Versus spring 2001 collection, which showed here Sunday night. With clingy sweaters and back-baring halter tops, the clothes had lost none of the legendary sex appeal that, in years past, has veered head-on into trashiness. The designer exhibited a new sense of control that made this collection relevant to women with a range of experiences and attitudes, all overlaid with sophistication. With their rhinestones, satin and body-baring silhouettes, most, however, were meant for showy nights out.
There were satin cigarette pants with simple tops-embroidered tank tops or a perfectly balanced, one-shouldered T-shirt, ideal for sportier women. Dressier occasions called for the shirred, strapless mini-dress with a rhinestoned strap that ran from the hem, over one shoulder, and down the back. Tall, pointy boots provided a bold balance to flirty skirts with halter bodysuits, or little black dresses (yes, they're back).
The reappearance of more classic looks on runways, such as Versace's, is due in part to fashion's recent embrace of ladylike clothes. Alberta Ferretti has long been a champion of the well-mannered sophisticate, even in her sometimes frilly Philosophy line. The frill is gone.
Now Ferretti's junior ladies adopt the clean and simple clothes of the military, but soften them with negligee-like tops and fabrics. Buttoned sailor pants meet ruched, sheer tops; downsized Eisenhower jackets pair with leather skirts, and shirtdresses come with gold buttons and epaulets. Working in a palette of light blue, caramel, coral and black, Ferretti's collection included cardigans for the office, '50s full-skirted gowns for the fancy dance and bubble skirts that looked like bloomers for those moments when good sense is entirely absent. One must-have item: the rickrack belt or headband cut from leather.
The D&G girl has often been that-a girl. The designers have called on many incarnations in the past, including the schoolgirl and the party girl. Their new muse is the post-disco diva, personified by Madonna, circa 1984. It wasn't hard to picture the Material Girl in the gold lame jumpsuit, the red leather micro-minis or the leggings that looked like thick stockings with a trouser waistband.
On a stage set to resemble the VIP room of a gold-lame-upholstered nightclub, out came clothes with a very clear ambition: Attract money. In addition to that gold-digger classic, the leopard print, the duo added prints of United States dollars, gold coins and the center of get-rich-quick, Las Vegas casinos. If that message wasn't clear enough, read the tube-top slogans: "Expensive Doll," or "Cause I Am Worth It." D&G's girl has taken the imagery of that other girl-for-hire, the geisha, and splashed her face on halter tops and dresses.
Clearly, Dolce & Gabbana's little girl has discovered the wider world, and she wants a big, pricey part of it. Now! Kids today. They grow so fast.