#SuzyCouture: Dolce & Gabbana Alta Sartoria – The End of the Worldwide Business Suit?

Swapping local dress for the international business suit has been the mark of a man who has made it – for nearly a century.

Even in India or the Middle East, where a globally recognised men’s dress code, appropriate to the climate and local customs, still exists, men travelling abroad for work have almost always adopted universal tailoring. The exception is for formal meetings held on home territory – take President Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, for which political figures in the Kingdom wore their traditional clothing.

But is this supposition of global businessmen in suits still accurate?

Watching Dolce & Gabbana’s presentation of Alta Sartoria – meaning “high-level formal wear” in Italian – you can see how the world is changing. This weekend, the models walking by the Duomo (or cathedral) in Monreale, in the hills above Palermo, sometimes wore suits, but the garments were more likely to be created with shimmering silvered scales than with plain, woven fabrics.

Then there were the robes – swishing around the piazza where an orchestra played classical music as the audience walked over Persian rugs to be seated on red velvet divans with a gilded flourish.

Rather than divide the collection into formal and smart casual, the ensembles were all put together with high-level handwork and could range from a simple T-shirt embroidered with “Monreale” to magnificent patterns replicating the Moorish and Byzantine decorated pillars in the cathedral cloisters, where Domenico and Stefano hosted a sit-down dinner.

Both designers are passionate about their couture project and Domenico waxed lyrical about the importance of human connections in a fashion world of mighty brands.

“Fashion is not marketing; it is not about money, money, money. Fashion is love,” said the designer as he toured the long tables seating more than 300 clients. He went on to talk about his admiration for the independence of Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace, saying, “Mr Versace was at his office door at six o’clock every day. This is love.”

Translating that passion into their vision of fashion lead to the creation of a Dolce & Gabbana handbook for the show.

“Each garment, like every mosaic at Monreale, embodies a constant quest for perfection in beauty and artisanal excellence,” read one description of the duo’s work. And that connection with religious faith included coats, jackets and tops with Christian iconography on the back.

The concept was that the cathedral, with its Arabian tiles and Baroque decoration, was a starting point in Dolce & Gabbana’s thinking process of Sicily’s long heritage of absorbing different cultures. And that idea was integral to this section of the four-part weekend of shows that included menswear, womenswear and jewellery for both sexes.

Significantly, this menswear made-to-order collection for the international super-rich is targeting clients of different cultures. An African guest, wearing a robe rather than a suit, chased after a model in a more decorative version of his own outfit and ordered one for himself – along with the red velvet shoes with gilded pom-poms.

The wife of a Chinese client chose for her husband a casual zippered jacket with dense geometric embroideries creating black-on-white squares and angular patterns.

There will surely be a catfight for the impeccably-cut suit smothered in roses and another highly decorative outfit with silver glitter flowers. Or, marginally less showy, wine-red irises embroidered on the back of a jacket with matching silken trousers or palm trees decorating the back of beige trousers.

Other tailoring, following the body shape with a curve, was more classic and therefore more predictable in a men’s collection.

Since the new millennium, men’s wardrobes have opened up to unexpected colours, fabrics and styles. But that has been in ready-to-wear, not at the height of bespoke tailoring.

Yet male style has, indeed, been here before. Inside Monreale Cathedral, a room was dedicated to religious robes – a garden of blooms embroidered on silk, pink lace sleeves and layers of glossy colour. Some of those decorative religious “uniforms” – such as the silver flower patterns on pink lace – had inspired Domenico and Stefano, and replicas could be spotted in the show.

For all their skills at plain tailoring, the duo has found a way of getting under the skin of a global generation not so in love with the plain gray office suit.