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Dolce & Gabbana versus Victoria Beckham: a great fashion comic-spat

Reports that Dolce and Gabbana have made some rather arch comments about Victoria Beckham‘s prowess as a designer will surprise no one in the fashion industry, where the semi-friendly comic-spat is as much a part of the circus as street-style snappers and shoulder robing.

“She’s a friend. She make a good job but … for us, she don’t make the same way like a fashion designer,” Stefano Gabbana reportedly said, at the VA‘s Glamour of Italian Fashion event this week. “She become after many, many, many different things. She’s a designer but … it’s different. John Galliano is a designer … Alexander McQueen.” Domenico Dolce instead put Beckham in a category of “professional” designers, with high street labels like Zara and HM.

This kind of remark trips from the mouths of designers – as do many comments that are a lot more critical. Karl Lagerfeld, for example, is a master of the comic-spat. When Stella McCartney got the top job at Chloé, he said: “[Chloé] should have taken a big name. They did, but in music, not fashion. Let’s hope she is as gifted as her father.” When the Guggenheim museum announced an exhibition celebrating Azzedine Alaia’s work, he declared: “If you want to see a retrospective of Azzedine Alaia, just look at what he’s doing now.” Ouch.

In 2009, Dolce Gabbana fell out with Armani about that most grave of subjects, a pair of quilted trousers, a design that both parties accused the other of copying. At the time, Armani said: “Now they copy – later they will learn,” to which Dolce and Gabbana retaliated: “[Armani] has never has been an inspiration source for us and we stopped seeing his fashion shows years ago.” In 2012, Roberto Cavalli described the Armani Hotel Milano with this pithy diss-as-soundbite: “It looks like a psychiatric hospital,” after which he added: “Of course, I love Armani.” But of course.

The reality is that Dolce and Gabbana are friends with Beckham and have been for years. And while some outside the industry still perceive her as a former Spice Girl first, the Italian duo know that she has long been accepted in fashion circles, having received glowing show reviews from season to season and being a big enough brand to open her own flagship London store.

Fashion is a world of drama, entertainment, gossip and superlatives, an industry packed with eccentric, outlandish, passionate characters. While some designers shy away from the spotlight, many more revel in singing for their supper, issuing headline-grabbing comments to press and buyers. Sometimes, they get it very wrong – as with Lagerfeld’s Adele comments – but for the most part they playfully pick these little fights while smiles twitch around their mouths. Then afterwards, they sit back and await the stream of free publicity – for all involved.

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