Dolce & Gabbana Take Their Ultimate Shopping Trip For The Super-Rich To Como
There comes a point in a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda show where one wonders if it’s possible to have a fashion overdose. This feeling had begun to stir as I strolled into Parco Teresio Olivelli, the setting for Friday evening’s extravaganza at the edge of Lake Como, and weaved through the 350 clients who were taking to their chaise longues for the second of a four-day programme of events, which is best described as the ultimate shopping trip for the super rich.
The dress code? Dolce & Gabbana, naturally. The guests, all poised to purchase the Italian equivalent of haute couture, sported corseted tulle ball gowns, tiered skirts in painterly florals, jewelled velvet slippers, brocade jackets, demure lace dresses… I could go on. One, the Ukrainian TV presenter Oksana Marchenko, debuted the scarlet feathered creation she’d ordered from April’s Alta Moda collection in New York.
Back to the real show, with 120 intricately handcrafted looks. The best description of its essence came from Stefano Gabbana: “We don’t smoke a joint, but we like to think about the collection as if we have just smoked a joint. We went completely crazy.”
You’d be hard pressed not to find something in the mix that didn’t tickle your fancy, which is entirely the point. One moment, there were tie-dyed jeans (yes, in a couture show, perchè no?), the next, delicate needlepoint ankle-grazing dresses, the next, fringed kaftans with hand-painted organza flowers that Princess Margaret would have adored for Mustique. A genuinely useful style solution was sandals with faux-grass soles – great for negotiating lawns or concealing scuffs.
The starting point had been The Betrothed, the 19th-century, Lecco-set novel by Italian literary great Alessandro Manzoni, which the designers found “sooooooo boring” at school. They’d gone the full Manzoni, employing extras to swing from trees or hand out Dom Pérignon in period costume (including nun and monk get-ups) and an actor to sign copies of the book as Manzoni.
A beatific Lady Kitty Spencer opened as Lucia – the tale’s lovestruck female protagonist – wearing a puff-sleeved silk gown with a skirt several feet in circumference and printed with scenes from the book. On her head, an interpretation of “la raggiera” headdress of the Brianza region. “We love tradition, but we want to give it our touch,” said Gabbana.
It wasn’t just Italian tradition that the duo played with. They spoke of adapting each look to its chosen model, of whom there were a glorious variety: plus-size superwoman Ashley Graham, Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigová, Naomi Campbell, 70-year-old Maye Musk and plenty more from around the world. They had given Indian model Dipti Sharma a piece of fabric to wrap like a sari, which they then made into a dress for her. India is a market where interest in Dolce & Gabbana is growing.
In that sense, Alta Moda felt like a direct and powerful example of a fashion brand knowing its customers “like family”, as one told me. It was not diversity for diversity’s sake but for business’ sake – petite Asian ladies could see how a dress would work on someone little more than 5ft tall, or those with curves could appreciate how the shapes might work on bodies like theirs.
Then there is the breed of Dolce & Gabbana customer for whom molto is never enough. The widow-chicness of Christensen’s look might have seemed theatrical but at the menswear show – Alta Sartoria – the next evening, a client was doing an even more OTT take with an elaborate mantilla. Another wore a sequinned skirt with Palermo postcard montages, signalling that it was a purchase from 2017’s Sicily-based proceedings – given that a significant number of attendees were first timers, that’s a fashion statement they are likely to be eager to emulate next time.
For these women, it will have been a race against time to secure the looks they love. They could reserve during the show via WhatsApp to their personal D&G attendant, then try on in the dressing rooms set up in the villa where a lavish dinner followed the show – there are rumoured to be discounts if you buy on the night.
The shopportunities didn’t stop there, with two pop-up boutiques in Como selling more limited edition pieces. As fashion overdoses come, it could hardly be more spectacular.