Could Elton’s dust-up with Dolce & Gabbana be fashion’s Franz Ferdinand moment?

The Italian duo have issued a non-apology apology for their comments on gay parenting and ‘synthetic babies’. But where does all this leave Madonna, forced to choose between her gay fans and fashion?

What the hell is going on with Dolce & Gabbana?
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Oh, you mean that whole tax-dodging awkwardness? Gawd, that is so last season! Anyway, it’s all totes FINE now: the guilty verdict for evading €200m in taxes (downgraded from an initial accusation of €1bn) was overturned by an Italian court in October, and far be it for this column ever to knock the Italian justice system. Oh wait! What’s that? You were referring to a different bit of D & G unpleasantness? Let’s have a little look-see.
Could Elton’s dust-up with Dolce & Gabbana be fashion’s Franz Ferdinand moment?
Over the weekend, an interview with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana was published in the Italian magazine Panorama. Ostensibly, it was supposed to be about their most recent collection, which they showed a few weeks ago in Milan. In reality, it turned into something else, which perhaps we should have predicted, looking at the collection. At the time, I thought this show was creepy as hell, with its weirdly obsessive celebration of “la famiglia” and “la mamma”, which, in fashion terms, meant having models carrying babies down the runway while wearing dresses embroidered with Clinton Cards-like slogans, such as “I love you, mamma!” and “Per la mamma piu bella del mondo!” (“For the most beautiful mother in the world!”) Now it turns out that the most offensive thing about this collection wasn’t that it looked like it heavily ripped off Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress, which featured expressions of love from her children, but rather that it was an expression of Dolce and Gabbana’s hilariously anachronistic opinions about parenting.

Using the Italian I distantly remember from my year abroad in Florence as a student (mi chiama Hadley!), I have read this interview and can confirm it is, indeed, ludicrous. Not just for what it says but because what is being said sounds like it should come out of the mouth of a wingnut Republican senator in the US, not a pair of gay fashion designers in Milan. Using, somewhat puzzlingly, but extremely Italian-ishly, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard as evidence for their argument, Dolce and Gabbana assert that gay people should not have children, because children should have “a mother and a father” and “procreation should be an act of love”. So far, so US Republican senator. But the duo go further than even most American politicians, with a wholesale dismissal of babies born with the help of IVF or surrogacy as “synthetic babies” produced by “wombs for rent”.
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“The family is not a fad,” opines Gabbana, apparently unaware that he put babies and children on a fashion runway last month for their autumn/winter 2015 collection. “Today not even psychiatrists are ready to face the effects of these experiments.”

Stefano, Stefano, Stefano! You are underestimating psychiatrists badly here. There have been psychological studies on the effect of punishing people for spitting out their gum – I think someone might have thought to investigate the effects of gay parenting on children by now. And, indeed, they have – and they have found that “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to sexual orientation”. In fact, the only thing I don’t think there has been an investigation into is the long-term effect on children who are pushed on to fashion runways and forced to walk towards the terrifying barricade of cameras and paparazzi, surrounded on all sides by freaky fashion journalists, with only an underfed eastern European teenage model to help guide them.

But, truly, Dolce and Gabbana’s concern for the well-being of children is touching. As Stefano declines to make entirely explicit his feelings about heterosexual couples who use IVF or surrogacy, I don’t think we need to waste any time shooting that fish in this barrel.

Anyway, Dolce and Gabbana’s views on parenting would have remained unknown to the greater public had not good ol’ Elton John barrelled on in and denounced the duo on Instagram. And at this point, things promptly went kray-kray. Elton has every right to be a bit cross about the duo’s views, not least because he has two children with his husband, David Furnish, and his response was relatively measured (for Elton). Gabbana, however, is having none of it – and after denouncing Elton as “a fascist” (you’d think an Italian would be clearer on the correct definition), he has spent the past 36 hours making angry collages on Instagram, which is molto tragico. After Elton called for a boycott of Dolce & Gabbana, Stefano is now calling for a boycott of Elton for, um, something, and he has, hilariously, adopted the Charlie Hebdo hashtag for himself: “Je suis D&G”. He has also since issued the typical non-apology apology press release, saying: “We talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices.” Translation: “We see children of gay couples as abominations, no judgement! Buy our stuff!”
Applause or catcalls? Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Photograph: Venturelli/WireImage
But I think we are forgetting the real victim of this battle: Madonna. Now, Madonna is no friend of Elton (he once called her “a fucking fairground stripper”), but she is a friend of the gay folk. She is also, however, a friend of Dolce & Gabbana. And now she is facing the Sophie’s Choice scenario of having to choose between her gay fans and fashion. Truly, I think we have just witnessed the 21st century’s version of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand – and all alliances are in doubt here. As Dolce & Gabbana would say: “mamma mia!” Theguardian.com

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