Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are no strangers to spectacle, but even they couldn’t have orchestrated the dramatic finale to their Alta Moda presentation in Venice on Sunday night.
As the final looks proceeded down the runway, the heavens opened above St Mark's Square, leaving the design duo to take their final bow amid torrents of rain.
It was a fitting end to an already remarkable event. There was the setting – a runway erected in front of one of Venice’s most famous attractions, with a series of small tables set up along one side, as if the audience had gathered for a casual aperitivo in one of Italy’s traditional street-side cafes.
The guest list – Jennifer Lopez, resplendent in a voluminous embroidered cape and matching crown, Helen Mirren in a bejewelled bodice and Doja Cat in a billowing silver skirt, to name but a few; and, the piece de resistance, a breathtaking rendition of Nessun dorma by Jennifer Hudson, who was a vision in gold.
The collection itself was an homage to Venice. The colour palette drew on the rich tones of Venetian glassware, the blue of the lagoon and the mosaics and decorative features found in the city’s historic buildings.
On visits to Venice, the designers also noted how the evening light would cast the city in myriad hues, which became another source of inspiration.
The dome of Saint Mark’s basilica was reimagined as oversized sleeves on a bolero jacket, while Venice’s canals and gondolas, and famous landmarks such as the spire of San Giorgio Maggiore, were reproduced in sequins on long, flowing dresses.
Shorter dresses mimicked the shape of Venetian glasses turned upside down, with fitted bodices and bulbous skirts. Or they were covered in tiny glass flowers, like wearable chandeliers that tinkled softly as models moved.
Oversized blazers doubled as dresses and were decorated in intricate embroidered motifs, while shoulders were enveloped in three-dimensional flowers. Satin was used to capture the movement of water in the lagoon, and a floor-length leopard-print cape was paired with a bedazzled Venetian carnival mask to give a house signature a fresh feel.
“There are a lot of new techniques and new kinds of embroidery, like patchwork,” Gabbana explained during a preview of the collection earlier in the day. “We have created a tribute to Venice and the craftsmanship of Venice.”
The symbolic importance of this particular collection was tangible. As Dolce & Gabbana’s distinctly Italian answer to Paris’s haute couture, Alta Moda is the highest expression of the duo’s creativity and a celebration of Italian craftsmanship. But the Alta Moda presentations have also always been about bringing people together in a celebration of everything Italian.
“Alta Moda is not just clothes – it is a style of living, it is people, it is a sense of community,” said Dolce.
And after the past 18 months of pandemic-induced isolation, this new collection represents “a rebirth of Alta Moda”, says Dolce. This was reflected by the models on the runway, six of which were making their modelling debut.
Also walking were the daughters of Heidi Klum, P Diddy and Monica Bellucci, representing “a new generation, a new life, a new attitude”, said Dolce.
The presentation was joyful and celebratory – a much-welcome riot of colour, creativity and luminescence that even an unexpected storm could not dampen. And it was a reminder that, come rain or shine, Dolce and Gabbana deliver.