Dolce & Gabbana’s midsummer masterpieces at Alta Moda show in Portofino

Dolce & Gabbana unveiled their much-anticipated Alta Gioielleria, Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria collection to VIP clients in Italy. In a newspaper exclusive, The National goes behind the scenes of the four-day couture extravaganza.

Voluminous ballgowns from the Alta Moda presentation, which drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Courtesy Dolce & Gabbana
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VIP clients and privileged members of the press descended on Italy’s sun-drenched cove of Portofino last week for Dolce & Gabbana’s couture presentations.

About 300 guests flocked to the Ligurian seaside village for the exclusive four-day event, which began with the unveiling of designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s haute jewellery collection, Alta Gioielleria. Alta Moda, D&G’s equivalent to women’s couture, followed on day two, before Alta Sartoria for men was presented on day three. The shows were five months in the making, with every fabric, bead and strand of silk thread sourced from the designers’ motherland.

Drawing proceedings to a close on the final night, was a glamorous gold-themed party at Covo di Nord Est nightclub, where Kylie Minogue gave a surprise performance.

Alta Gioielleria: Day 1

Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce set something of a precedent with the unveiling of their haute jewellery collection in Portofino. Having owned adjacent properties on the idyllic coast for many years, the duo invited clients and the press to their home, for the first time, for a special soirée. A majlis tent had been constructed on the grounds and other rooms cleared of furniture to house the collection. D&G’s pieces were an ode to Princess Delfina, their imagined Portofino royal, who lived in a castle by the sea and though pursued by many suitors, failed to marry. Chests overflowing with jewellery set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds were constantly sent to her door and it was those that set the scene for Alta Gioielleria.

Ladies were encouraged to sit upon a gold throne while valets, clad in ruffle collars and tails, brought jewels on plump cushions for them to try on. The collection was vast and varied, with bejewelled ballerinas displayed alongside French horns sprinkled with sapphires. True to the DNA of Dolce & Gabbana, nature featured prominently, with the most delicate of buds, petals and leaves fashioned from yellow gold. Equally popular with clients were earrings and timepieces adorned with bees, birds, butterflies and lions. Befitting a queen, there were crowns, precious stone colliers and sunburst rings fringed with baguette diamonds. Corals and cameos made an appearance too, as did the good luck charms of horseshoes and verdant shamrocks.

Alta Moda: Day 2

In keeping with the inspiration for this year's Alta Moda, which was Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the setting for the show was fantasy flora and fauna. High on a hilltop above the Tigullio Gulf, an al fresco catwalk sprouted trees bearing watermelons, while Puck-like nymphs swung in hoops suspended from branches. VIPs made their way through arches of fresh flowers before taking their seats on topiary sofas and velvet benches. The sound of classical music competed with the rhythmic clicks of Italian Mountain cicadas.

At sunset, shots were fired in the air to herald the arrival of the first of 96 looks. Down the ramp came a model dressed in a billowing, glittering skirt and an intricate bodice of pure gold. The sparkles continued with empire-line gowns and strapless column dresses covered in kaleidoscopic crystals.

Feathers featured prominently, pluming from turbans, accenting jackets and, to most striking effect, making up the vibrant, voluminous skirt of a gown that swept over the feet of clients as the model glided by.

In keeping with the paradiso naturale surroundings, lace petals, beaded blooms and embroidered leaves adorned dresses of citrine and lavender. Heavy-headed peonies and roses covered floor-length silk-chiffon gowns, while needlepoint cherries and apples added pops of colour to sweetheart neckline sheath dresses. Animal motifs took the form of sequinned owls, swans, peacocks and dragonflies, while red leopard print was the focus of an Oriental fringed dress and matching parasol.

True to form, in addition to couture of the highest order, Alta Moda also exhibited pared silhouettes, floaty A-line dresses and highly wearable tunics.

Signature Dolce & Gabbana dresses in jet black were sent down the catwalk in elegant, below-the-knee, off-the-shoulder fashion. Three-piece suits with bolero jackets and pinstripe palazzo pants were equally striking, as were jewel-encrusted dress coats and richly hued brocade trousers.

Headpieces were straight from the pages of Shakespeare’s fairy-tale comedy, with Titania-esque crowns and garlands of fresh flowers. Floral earrings in gold were opulent and oversized, weighted with pearls, sapphires and emeralds. And on the feet of Dolce & Gabbana’s ethereal lovelies were diamanté flats and column-­heeled velvet pumps.

Following a highly acclaimed Alta Moda show in Capri last year, the designers managed to up the couture ante this time. They let their imagination run wild and indulged a whim to present pieces that didn’t conform to one style, genre or rigid concept. Chinoiserie evening wear followed cropped kimonos, which were sent down alongside daywear and ball gowns. While patchwork pelts and fur clutches of mint green and ice blue were shown next to bijoux tapestry bags with Perspex trims. Although the collection was shown as winter, the fabrics and palette told a different story, and D&G have long worked on the premise that Alta Moda will never be stifled by season.

After the show, guests made their way up a winding staircase to the estate’s cliff-top property, the terrace of which had been set for a gourmet feast. Under a canopy of trees decorated with gold hearts embossed with the words “Amore” and “Portofino”, diners enjoyed sea bass tartare, octopus, Ligurian pansotti pasta with walnut sauce and tiramisu.

Marking the end of dinner, and as a band began to play, hundreds of butterflies were released from a veranda overhead. Much excitement was had as they fluttered around the heads of Dolce & Gabbana’s guests, who were soon dancing the night away. The frivolity carried on into the early hours, with ladies resplendent in foulard print dresses, charmeuse gowns depicting scenes from Portofino and striking blue-and-white majolica numbers. Guests returned to their hotels via luxury Riva speedboats from Portofino bay, to sleep, perchance to dream, and to do it all over again tomorrow.

Alta Sartoria: Day 3

Dolce & Gabbana’s men’s collection, Alta Sartoria, was a more casual affair. The dress code for the event was “cocktail with flat shoes” and ladies who opted for heels promptly rued their decision. After alighting from boats at the Piazzetta of Portofino, VIPs made their way up the short but steep mountain incline to Castello Brown. The imposing terrace of the fortress was brightly illuminated with tables for guests dotted around the snaking catwalk. Ahead of the show, guests took photos of the picture-perfect harbour below, nibbling on olives and enjoying refreshments, as songs, including I Found my Love in Portofino, played in the background.

With Portofino having long been an exclusive retreat for movie stars and moguls, Alta Moda this season catered well to their discerning tastes. Dolce and Gabbana created pieces that were elegant and eclectic, with just the right measure of eccentricity. There were classic two- and three-piece suits in navy, cream and the staple black. There were also tuxedos and smoking jackets, in single- and double-breasted styles. The tailoring was faultless, with jackets exhibiting hand-sewn buttonholes, signature top stitching inside and out, fillet pockets and peaked lapels.

Setting the camera bulbs popping were jewel-encrusted blazers, plastron shirts with precious stone buttons and crystal-trimmed cigarette pants. A resplendent powder-blue suit of raw silk with heavy crystal embellishment drew squeals of approval from the crowd, as did an azure, striped ensemble covered with roses.

Models pulled off kimono jackets; straight-legged and pleated trousers with aplomb. Equally pleasing were luxurious pyjamas in fuchsia, polka dots and cobalt blue with pink trim.

Accessories-wise, tie pins, black-rimmed spectacles and velvet slippers emblazoned with crystals were omnipresent on the catwalk.

A nod to the Middle East and North Africa, kaftans were a standout inclusion of Alta Sartoria. Designs ranged from black-and-white stripes paired with a dense fur scarf, to a monochrome piece with Arabesque fretting detail to the collar and cuffs. There were cream kaftans with floral embroidery for daywear and a striking black one with intricate silver beading for Arabian nights.

Dolce & Gabbana were unafraid to push the creative envelope with this collection and there were no half measures when it came to experimentation. From bold stripes teamed with spots, to tiger print frock coats and alligator shorts-shirt combos, the pieces were innovative as they were theatrical.

After the show, a jazz band struck up and dancers clad in 1920s garb entertained the crowd.

Revelling extended long into the night and the party, audible from the town below, had clearly come to the attention of tourists and villagers. As they ate their dinner and sat in Portofino’s seafront cafes, they smiled and took photos of the stream of glamorous D&G guests who made their way through the Piazzetta and back to their hotels.