Dolce and Gabbana chose Portofino as the location to launch their new haute couture ( alta moda in their mother tongue) on the world. Not just alta moda, but alta sartoria and alta gioellia: womenswear, menswear, and jewelry, a world of one-off splendors, essentially showcased in their own homes. Their sixteenth-century hilltop fortress Castello Brown was covered in twinkling fairy lights.
It is not every day that a couture show is staged by moonlight with the sound of the sea lapping against rocks and the lights of the clients’ mega-yachts twinkling in the near distance.
Guests converged from all over the world to participate in the designers’ weekend of “at home,” deliberately surreal entertainments. By the time the music of Verdi’s Aida had filled the dusky sky, the show had already lived up to what Stefano described as an experience “between fantasy and reality”.
“The fashion system is more than just labels,” he said, to explain the significance of Alta Moda. “You have to offer a sensation and an emotion – you have to tell a story.”
The event was one of those moments of enchantment, transporting fashion into a magical world of suspended disbelief, while still resting on a firm art and craft foundation.
Patchworked multicolored fox fur brocade Poiret coats and fur in offbeat colours from lichen green to dawn pink was worked into the clothing.
“We don’t count how many hours it took to make an Alta Moda piece. We don’t say, ‘how much was the fabric? How long did we spend screen-printing the tulips onto that silk to make them look as though they were hand-painted, or how many thousands of hand-sewn sequins are on that dress?’” said Domenico Dolce. “We do this from love, and for love of couture.”
Corseted ballgowns galore, black lace wicked widow see-through dresses, Maharaja bejwelled turbans and lushly sweeping silk kimonos.
The show was rich in intensely decorated and magical patterns, but also included a wardrobe of body-conscious dresses and sleek black tailoring that fulfilled the reality requirements.
There were the show-stopping ballgowns with their vast trains of painted feathers or tulle, studded with thousands of hand-stitched silk daisies, embroidered peacocks or printed with parrots and squirrels.
In total the designers sent out 94 outfits – an array of fairy-like and magical garments with exceptional decorative handwork.
“I love Shakespeare!” proclaimed Stefano, to explain flowered hoops held by male servers in Tudor dress, while a woman with a harp played “Greensleeves”, and the melody drifted into the sunset.
Clients clinked champagne glasses from the rustic ground, while overhead two acrobats swung like Shakespearean sprite Puck from the trees.
A Roman centurion and Renaissance pages were holding flower-garlanded arches over the heads of arriving guests, trees sprouted ceramic Majolica apples, nymphs with filigree wings and Puck-like figures suspended from branches.
Dante, Homer and Shakespeare coming together in the designers own version of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'. Lewis Carroll also played a part in the mise en scène that transformed Dolce’s garden into a hybrid paradise: grapes on a palm tree, watermelons on an olive tree, orange trees with chestnuts, and a massive upside-down oak, roots waving in the air. “What’s real, what’s fantasy, you won’t know,” Gabbana teased before the show.
To produce almost one hundred pieces of such sartorial perfection made this Dolce & Gabbana collection seem out of this world.
Or, as William Shakespeare put it so poetically: “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.”
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