“What can be called ‘new’ in clothing?” Yves Saint Laurent asked an Elle reporter in 1971, after the release of what critics deemed a tasteless retrospective. “From peplum to stockings, everything has been done and redone a hundred times. Hippie dress was borrowed from the East; shorts are borrowed from stadiums. And yet these are still new contributions to fashion.”
And prescient the designer was, but about more than his own legacy. Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, the founders and creative heads of Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, did more than pay tribute to their archives; they recycled parts of them in their most recent runway show.
Three of the dresses presented during the Feb. 26 Milan Fashion Week event had already been shown on the D&G runway — 12 years ago. On the left, models wear looks from D&G’s Fall/Winter 2005 ready-to-wear collection; on the right, they showcase fashions from the Fall/Winter 2017 show.
Dolce & Gabbana did not confirm whether the dresses were from the D&G archives or newly made, but some of the detailing (as well as the styling) appears slightly different. Julie Zerbo, founder of The Fashion Law, told Yahoo Style, “I think it’s interesting; while we quite often see designers mining the archives, so to speak, it’s rare to see such replication. That’s really what strikes me here,” Zerbo said. “The fabrics appear to be updated — some seem to be more sheer — [and the] styling [of] the last two [is] different with the bra. But the silhouettes are super similar.”
Zerbo said D&G is completely within its purview to dig into its archives because fashion houses retain the legal rights to their designs no matter who is at the helm. That said, designers typically reinvigorate designs with a modern element. “Almost everything we see in fashion has been done before in some way or other,” Zerbo said. “It’s reinterpreting elements we’ve already seen or making original in one way. But this is an extreme example.”
As for Saint Laurent, the very collection for which he gave that 1971 interview yielded pieces such as a now iconic green fox fur coat that has been remade over and over by the house’s creative directors. In 2002, just after Saint Laurent’s retirement, Tom Ford recast the green coat, decreasing the saturation of the emerald hue, and it was worn by an icon of equal caliber, Naomi Campbell. The coat appeared again in 2015 — this time the work of creative director Hedi Slimane, who cropped the garment.
Of course, YSL is but one example a fashion house where staples reappear. Karl Lagerfeld pays endless tribute to Coco Chanel and her tweed blazers; for posterity, the documentary Dior and I captured Raf Simons’s homage to Dior’s design aesthetic, which he continued to do throughout his tenure at the French house, reinterpreting Dior’s 1948 red wool Arizona coat for his fall 2013 ready-to-wear collection.
And so it continues: All that is old is new again. And again. And again.
Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style and Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.