Suzy Menkes couture autumn winter 2017 Dolce & Gabbana
As Domenico Dolce skirted the gilded angel atop the Baroque crown and put the finishing touches to the models’ lips, he spilled out all his emotions about showing Alta Moda in his home town.
“Palermo! For me, it is my life, my memories – my family, my grandmother, my school, my father, my mother – my life,” the designer said.
The line-up of the colourful clothes – some cute and sporty, others intricate or noble – led to a finale of dresses sweeping across the pathway. They were tipped by feather headdresses swaying in the evening breeze.
By the time Stefano Gabbana had hugged the mayor of the southern Italian city, and the models in all their peacock colours had lined up among the marble statues in the Piazza Pretoria, the private clients were on their feet waving their champagne glasses and leaping to register a purchase.
That evening, sitting at tables in the gardens of a former Benedictine monastery by the ocean, gazing at tables laden with toy characters carved in sugar, there was no doubt that the show was a hit – a palpable hit.
For in a discreet side room, clients who had registered their choices by WhatsApp were ordering outfits, fighting as politely as possible to be the one and only wearer.
There is a back story to the design duo’s couture collections for women, men, female jewellery and, this season, the advent of Alta Gioielleria – men’s high jewellery, that went from eagle-shaped brooches to intricate decorative cigarette lighters. They were shown in a private palazzo with Damien Hirst butterflies on the walls and a view from the balcony over the jumbled stone buildings.
When Stefano and Domenico decided to close their lower D&G fashion line in 2011 and invest in high fashion, it touched a nerve in society. A global class was growing, with big money, but one that was not defined, or even recognised, by society in general.
For some clients, the bi-annual event, that is grandiose without being stiff, has become a certainty on the calendar. I recognise the same people – from Tokyo, Hawaii, Macau, St. Petersburg – all sharing the experience.
Judging by the crowded audience, the numbers are growing. For this autumn/winter season (bearing in mind that this global group has no single seasonal need) there was a wide variety of styles for every time of the year.
The designers were not sitting on their laurels and trotting out the familiar, which was the feeling at last season’s Milan show.
There were more daytime clothes: slim, sporty trousers with decorative tops; blouses with ballooning sleeves. Pretty, but not fussy.
Yet the essence of the work is hand decoration, dense or delicate, that turns each outfit into a treasure. By the end of the show, the grand gowns were on more familiar territory – skirts ballooning over the runway were brushed with whimsical paintings. The headpieces made of plumes of multi-coloured feathers made a powerful finale.
What this Alta Moda show achieved was to create a cultural fashion universe. Domenico and Stefano used fragments of Palermo memory, from its history – Arab to African, Spanish to Middle Eastern – and its deep Catholic heritage.
Not least was the reference to Il Gattopardo or The Leopard the book that defined Palermo’s history and whose film version by Luchino Visconti in 1963 brought it to the wider world.
For the high jewellery collection, Domenico and Stefano chose the very building – the Palazzo Gangi – where Italian actress Claudia Cardinale danced in the ballroom as a symbol of sensuality and societal change. That idea of bringing a fresh spirit to the historic was mirrored in the show.