The top-heavy presence of innumerable headset-wearing security guards was an unexpected add-on to proceedings at last week’s Dolce & Gabbana’s “Alta Moda” show in Milan. But the surprise didn’t last for long. For the 80-strong audience included Arabian princesses (one in a strikingly short ostrich feather dress), African heiresses, Italian contessas, Russian oligarchs’ wives and Chinese millionairesses.
Along with Monica Bellucci and five Vogue editors (including Alexandra Shulman from London and Anna Wintour from New York), they had flown in from the couture shows in Paris – “really not so great, this season”, reported one guest, “with the exception of Chanel and Valentino” – to see the Italian designers’ second collection of uncompromisingly lavish couture.
Held in a new and beautifully fitted-out salon that was about as minimalist as the Hermitage, the collection climaxed with this extraordinary wedding outfit (the second gown). That crown, those heels, and the bustier beneath the models lace-gauzed waist were not just golden, but gold.
Earlier looks in this almost entirely all-white collection represented less of a security risk, but – especially when you looked closely at the jewellery – were just as extravagantly executed. Carved coral earrings and rings were studded with diamonds and pearls and held fast in yet more gold; chandelier earrings were studded with gems that gleamed like light bulbs. And that chandelier design pointed to the collection’s defining motif, which was Milanese architecture.
The fuller, more roundly skirted dresses were inspired by the dome of the Galleria, while most of the ornament – whether hand-painted on to silk or appliquéd on to raffia – were based on the stucco flourishes that decorate most pre-20th-century rooms in the city.
The models were styled as sloe-eyed, sleek-haired Fellini-era glamour pusses – a look that rarely fails, but worked particularly well with a white version of last season’s grey, peplummed Alta Moda jacket. Hips, even artificially enhanced ones, allowed the models to execute their passeggiata with extra emphasis.
This Alta Moda “Milan” collection, sometimes virginal and sometimes vixenish, was much more focused that the extraordinary debut show held in Sicily last summer. And just like that first show, it was far, far more beautiful to watch than the vast majority of fashion collections I have seen.
Frustratingly, however, only a very few other people will ever be able to see these dresses up close, let alone own one. The Daily Telegraph and three foreign newspapers were the only media outlets invited to the show, and Domenico Dolce said he would never allow the collection to be worn on Hollywood’s red carpet. “This collection is for our customers, and they do not want to see their dresses on a celebrity, in an advert, or in a magazine,” he said.
pictures by Greg Kessler and vogue.co.uk