Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda events are always an exultant affair — a celebration of fashion, food, craftsmanship and culture — but this year, to mark 10 years since the launch of the duo’s distinctly Italian answer to haute couture, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana turned the dial up yet another notch.
As guests settled in front of the Cathedral of Syracuse, a Unesco World Heritage site in the historic centre of Sicily’s Ortigia Island, Mariah Carey made a suitably dramatic entrance, flanked by the designers and draped in a figure-hugging Dolce & Gabbana dress.
She took her seat among an already stellar line-up of celebrity guests — an ever-youthful-looking Sharon Stone, Helen Mirren in a voluminous striped gown, Drew Barrymore, Lupita Nyong’o, singer Ciara with her husband and children dressed in matching shades of gold and white, Casey Affleck, Kris Jenner, Christian Bale, Monica Belluci, Heidi Klum and Vanessa Bryant.
This year’s anniversary event represented a homecoming for Dolce, who was born in Sicily, and was an ode to Syracuse, a city more than 2,000 years old, in the south-east of the island. “Siracusa is a special place for us,” Gabbana explained before the show. “It is in the most southern part of Sicily, in front of Africa. I love the feeling, I love the mood, I love the stones, the colours, the people.”
The Alta Moda presentation was preceded by a re-enactment of Cavalleria rusticana, a classic Italian opera by Pietro Mascagni from the late 1800s, on a catwalk set up in front of the famed cathedral. A tale of passion, betrayal, family and ultimately, tragedy, it set the tone for a show laden with drama. “Tonight, we have tried to create an experience that is about the Dolce & Gabbana DNA,” said Dolce.
The collection was a heartfelt love letter to the Sicilian woman, one of Dolce & Gabbana’s most enduring muses. In a marked move away from the brand’s signature prints and vibrant, Mediterranean-inspired colour palette, the collection was rendered almost entirely in black. “If you ask someone, in their imagination, what the Sicilian woman wears, it is black,” said Gabbana.
The collection of 106 outfits was a distillation of the brand’s core codes. Appearing at the top of a set of steps as the church bells tolled, the opening look consisted of a short white dress with oversized sleeves shaped like cherubic statues. Next up, full-sized wings extending from the shoulders and voluminous, bridal-esque gowns covered in three-dimensional blooms.
Angelic white quickly made way for its antithesis, black, in the form of laser-cut gowns and coat dresses, corsets, shrouds, veils, head scarves and stern pencil skirts. Black lace, stiff corsetry, sheer stockings, plays in transparency and religious iconography heightened the ever-present interplay between sensuality and modesty.
Fresh from taking Paris Fashion Week by storm, Saudi model Amira Al Zuhair walked the runway in a calf-length black dress with subtle transparent panelling on the legs, arms and midriff.
Pops of yellow, lime green, pink, red and orange cut through the otherwise sombre palette, while oversized blazer dresses were laden with gold embroidery, dazzling crystal work or floral appliques, and paired with rhinestone-covered boots or delicate, flowery tights. A hot pink micro skirt with a matching cropped jacket shimmered emphatically as the model moved, while another silver dress was befitting of a Marvel heroine.
“Alta Moda, for me, is about surprises,” said Gabbana. "Every time we start a collection, I want to surprise myself. Every time is a challenge. I want to say something more. And I am full of curiosity."