#SuzyCouture: Dolce & Gabbana – The Super-Rich Plunge Into A High-Fashion Supermarket

In the same shade of pink as the sun setting over the mountains ringing Lake Como, models posed on a grand stone stairway.

There was Lady Kitty Spencer, Princess Diana’s niece, in a vast skirt showing quaint historic pictures of the sun-dappled water. While Naomi Campbell’s colourful feathers swayed on her headdress, as she posed for a picture with the Dolce & Gabbana duo.

An ‘experience’ is everything in the dizzy world of high fashion. And Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are masters of the art of mixing exceptional clothes with a whole lot of fun.

By the time invitees from across the globe had swayed like drunken sailors on a boat displaying decorative fine jewellery, or had dined in front of a church illuminated with twinkling lights and had seen the romantic Alta Moda show – the weekend came to its crescendo.

Well after midnight, guests leapt from their dining tables and walked as fast as they could in Dolce stilettos towards the prize.

These eager shoppers knew that by the next evening the show and its masculine embroidered loafers would be on the other foot. Alta Sartoria menswear was next on the Buy! Buy! Buy! party list. There was even a pop-up D & G store selling clothes (for both sexes) on a docked boat.

For high fashion today, experience is all. Perhaps even more important than the object itself for people whose groaning closets already contain more than they could wear in a year.

Here in Como, in front of these charming shop-aholics, were racks of the show clothes. Colourful and compelling – if only they could be snatched from the jaws of a potential rival. Whisked off to cubicles created with walls of silk taffeta in the interior of a noble palazzo, here was the possibility to try and buy instant Alta Moda.

Naomi’s dress was being whisked away to a private client. How cute a slim, young American woman looked in a jacket teamed with narrow breeches – and how spectacular were all the intricate details.

The D & G Alta Moda has sailed from Capri to Palermo, among many Italian venues in recent years. And behind the success of both the women’s and men’s events is the duo’s mission to keep Italian workmanship alive and make links with the country’s history.

Why Lake Coma? Domenico and Stefano explained the international status of the mountainous area, which attracted 19th-century Prussian royalty and aristocratic travellers – hence the historic mansions. They include the one where Alta Sartoria presented its whimsical mix of linen shirts, with subtle decoration, through tailored silken jackets to a grand opera cloak.

How did all that link up with both the international clients – and the place?

‘When we decided on Como we started to think about our school when we were young,’ said Domenico – while both designers referred to a classic Italian children’s fairy tale.

‘We take inspiration from books of the 18th century because it’s very romantic,’ said Domenico. ‘Then we dream up something completely crazy, like a romantic dress in electric blue with a head full of flowers. And another one is psychedelic; yet another is the nun amongst them.’

To counteract with the artistry, Stefano added references to the grand houses ringing the lake and their classic influence on the clothes.

‘Como is famous for all of the beautiful villas. There were the most aristocratic people on this lake in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s,’ said Stefano. ‘These people were very free and understated.’

‘When we came around to check the location we saw a lot of incredible buildings, from Napoleonic neo-classic style to buildings for the visiting German royal family.’

Maybe there was a little too much high style in the Alta Moda. Inevitably, women who are invited often, but not always, leave a male partner to settle the bill.

Why, as the men seemed to make their own choices and pay the bill. In an intense session of explanations, Domenico, who is the master tailor, introduced me to young men he has trained since they were late teenagers. And then drew attention to the extraordinary decorative menswear pieces, either woven, printed or subtly embroidered. The textures, the shades and the dedication to embellishment were exceptional. A couple of linen blouses, almost transparent in their subtle weave, seemed highly desirable.

As a woman, I wondered why none of these ways of softening menswear were applied to the Alta Moda women’s line.

Having grown Alta Moda organically and seeing it bloom, maybe ‘the boys’ can now extend their reach.