Dolce & Gabbana - Alta Moda Autumn/Winter 2019 Couture Collection
Yes, there's good news in The Fashion Spot's latest diversity report, but also some important lessons for the industry
we're pretty pleased to be able to report something positive: The Spring 2019 runways were the most racially diverse ever.
The runway pictures were sent to the world within minutes and the social media accounts of the invited few shared the action. But the Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda show felt more intimate, more private and more esoteric than any other destination show this season, from cruise to couture. In the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento on the south coast of Domenico Dolce’s native Sicily – a two-hour drive from Palermo – he and Stefano Gabbana erected a runway structure within the 430 BC Temple of Concordia and told the story of their Italian island’s Ancient Greek roots through stupefying savoir-faire splendour. “Culture is a complicated word,” Dolce said in a preview. “This is a very private story. We only want to share this with people who feel the same as we do.”
He was referring to their devoted and extremely fabulous-looking clients, who had made the voyage to this remote part of Sicily from every continent on the globe. Here, they wear their Alta Moda dresses, their Alta Sartoria suits and Alta Gioielleria jewels with each other, for each other, and get to be part of a very limited club. Many of them travel with their entire families – two or three generations on the front row. Because much as the Alta Moda experience is connected to the elitism that comes with haute couture, this weekend in Agrigento feels more like a spiritual gathering. Whether you worship trendy health gurus, Greek gods or Italian master dressmakers, there’s something about a small group of kindred spirits meeting in faraway sun-drenched, arid scenery that evokes familiar associations.
It’s a profound sense of devotion that can often feel like a timeout from society, a breather, a world of one’s own. “From 1984, little by little, we built an image and a label,” Gabbana said. “We know we are good not because we are better than other labels but because we are independent and it’s not easy to tell a story like we do. Everything comes from our hearts, not from a CEO. We are spontaneous. We make what we want. Alta Moda is an expression of this. It’s an experience. We want to share with you our hearts.” If it sounds incredibly heartfelt, it’s because it is. This was a special Alta Moda for the designers, who return to Sicily over and over again – physically and inspirationally – perhaps because they often feel a little bit like an island in the wavy sea of fashion.
They wanted to present their show in the Temple of Concordia because these structures, like haute couture, represented a sense of elevation to the Ancient Greeks who built them. Much like decorating one’s physique in the divine craftsmanship that goes into one-of-a-kind dressmaking, classicism was man’s way of building a stairway to the gods: reaching for an all-encompassing beauty ideal that went beyond the material. Dolce and Gabbana named each dress after a Greek muse and took inspiration from their patronages, from the armour of Athena to the crossbow of Diana. But beyond the theatrical metal accessories and beaded gold leather sandals, each dress interpreted Ancient Greece through painstaking artisanal proficiency.
Pottery motifs and meander patterns materialised on dresses in delicate needle-punch embroidery on translucent tulle or lace, in beaded appliqué on a dress with sleeves shaped like ceramic vases, rendered entirely in sequins on cocktail dresses, or on a mink cape constructed in intarsia. A section of gowns paid homage to the Grecian goddess silhouette in peplos architecturally composed from plissé panels, while fringe – the most ancient idea of surface decoration – was interpreted all over a dress in micro-beaded frills that rustled like metal tinsel, and feather work was evoked exclusively through intricate, super-dimensional embroidery that resembled plumage.
The floral decorations of Sicilian houses became foliage on porcelain-like dresses, and some tulle dresses were covered in embellishments only to be overlaid with more fabric and embellished again, creating a depth effect that looked, quite literally, beyond. In a kind of optical illusion, Dolce and Gabbana transferred the neoclassical paintings of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust to silk gazar gowns. When the models curved around the arch of the runway, the images would momentarily disappear through the filters of fabric only to reappear again when you saw them from the right angle. Helena Christensen also appeared, in a gilded black tunic runway-sweeper that glistened in the golden Sicilian sunlight, her name never as appropriate as in a show deifying the Hellenistic ideal.