Milan, Italy Down with the economy. Up with the hemlines.
Short and sexy is the antidote Italian designers have chosen to combat the sharp drop in sales they suffered in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The Spring-Summer 2003 collections previewing in Milan offer bare legs, sheer fabrics and tight fits. Add to this a dash of bright colors and you have the "moda Milanese" medicine to combat global gloom.
No designers were better equipped to drop this sex bomb on the runway than Tom Ford for Gucci and the daring Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana duo.
The Gucci show Saturday evening was an explosion of fetching fashion. Long-stemmed models marched down the runway in silver stiletto heels to a fast-paced techno beat Beatles soundtrack, wearing micro mini dresses that defied the laws of gravity. Ruched or draped, spaghetti-strapped or falling off one shoulder, these fashion jewels have no intention of dropping below the hipbone.
"They are very short, very sexy, very Gucci," an unabashed Ford admitted after the show.
The latest collection was a return after a brief romance with demure fashion to the sexy aggressive look that Ford used to turn the fading Gucci brand into a contemporary best seller in the 1990s.
The designer said his collection is a "fusion" between different styles 1960s, 1990s, a little of Marilyn Monroe and a lot of Beatle mania. "Technology has made everything instantly available," Ford said, adding that customers expect instant gratification.
Globe trotter that he is, Ford also draws inspiration from the Far East. He places his beautiful kimono jackets delicately over the shoulders to cover a teeny wisp of a dress, or leaves them provocatively open to reveal nothing more than a lacy bikini bottom closely related to boudoir panties.
The Gucci color scheme abandons staple black to embrace metallic and pastel shades that forge into a new invention pink gold.
The message rang clear as a bell Sunday at Dolce&Gabbana, where scantily dressed models wore chokers bearing the word SEX spelled out in gold capital letters.
While tops were ample and draped, often falling temptingly off one shoulder, hemlines were just millimeters below the buttocks.
There was lots of metal hardware in the collection, from the studded hip belts to the hefty motorcycle boots.
The fashion action took place in a recreated waterfront under the tent of the designing duos' downtown Milan home.
A series of vintage outfits from the heyday of Dolce&Gabbana boudoir fashion culminated in a floor length corset gown, where the lacing up the sides and down the front was anything-but-Victorian tight.
Jade Jagger, daughter of rock star Mick Jagger, who does her own fashion out of London these days, looked on, laced up in a corduroy corset dress from the current Dolce&Gabbana winter collection. Rapper Puff Daddy also enjoyed the show from his front row seat.
Roberto Cavalli on Monday chose to wrap his sexy summer look in wads of sumptuous chiffon. Far from the teeming traffic of a port, or the blaring notes of a disco, his upscale gals, including super model Eva Herzigova, opt to lounge in the lap of their luxurious homes.
The nine-day preview showings end Tuesday evening when designer Donatella Versace unveils her summer collection. Knowing the designer's penchant for racy fashion, it is sure to be another body bearing experience.