Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana made history last week when they became maestros for a day at Milan’s iconic Teatro alla Scala.
The 237-year-old opera house was the dramatic backdrop to Alta Moda, their women’s haute couture show.
As passionate opera fans, and longtime patrons of the arts, the collection was the designer duo’s ode to one of Italy’s most revered composers, Giacomo Puccini, and his couturier granddaughter, Elvira Leonardi, who was known as Biki.
“Biki – a strong, emancipated woman, determined to leave a mark in the history of Alta Moda – immediately enthralled us,” says Dolce. “Her creations and ours were born out of passion for elegance, love for Italian culture and the desire to clothe gorgeous women in unique garments.
"Biki's close bond with Puccini – who brought to life the exotic charm of Turandot, the sensual grace of Madame Butterfly, the daring character of Minnie and the dramatic resolve of Tosca – could also not fail to win us over."
To the strains of Maria Callas – once a loyal client of Biki – singing Puccini's aria O Mio Babbino Caro, D&G paraded 89 looks on La Scala's famous stage.
There were oversized coats, with deep fur cuffs and bateau necklines, bearing prints of La Scala and La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II’s distinctive façades.
Voluminous capes and cloaks glinted under the theatre lights, with original posters for Puccini’s most famous operas emblazoned in vibrant crystals on the backs of the models. Black velvet was the background for one such creation, with fire-breathing dragons and clawing eagles intricately embroidered in gold.
Curve-skimming evening gowns of ruby red and jet, with pagoda-like epaulettes and elaborate breastplates, turned heads. Equally pleasing were the signature black cocktail dresses with plunging backs and sensual slits, some characterised by feminine lace panels, others by seductively restrictive cuts.
Needlepoint work included exquisitely detailed peonies and poppies and verdant leaves, on gowns of citrine and white. Richly-embroidered hydrangeas, orchids, tulips and roses accented sheath dresses of mint green and powder pink.
Exotic pelts were omnipresent – most strikingly as a regal, ice-white mink coat with extended train – and as box clutches with ribbon detailing. Headdresses, meanwhile, took the form of towering sculptures of fans, crowns and netted button hats.
D&G also made sure to pay particular tribute to Biki with billowing deconstructed gowns of contrasting fabrics bearing sketches of her draped eveningwear and penchant for polka dots.
As the last of the models made their way around guests sitting on one of Italy’s most famous performance platforms, a composed Gabbana and tearful Dolce made their lap of honour as the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
“It’s a magical dream come true and has been an emotional journey,” said Dolce. “La Scala has been home to the very best in the world – and if you’re not the best, the audience will kill you. We felt the same pressure because La Scala and opera is truly at the heart of Italian people.”