Wooden fishing boats bobbed in the foreground as the sunset cast an orange glow over the horizon. The sound of Arabic music reverberated through the sleepy fishing town of Marzamemi, Sicily, and the quayside of the 17th-century “tonnara” was transformed into an Arabian Nights fantasy.
For its Alta Sartoria menswear presentation on Sunday, Dolce & Gabbana explored the influence of Arab rule on the Mediterranean’s largest island. The Moors, or Saracens, arrived here in the Middle Ages, and their presence is still evident in Sicily’s architecture, dialect and culinary traditions — Arab invaders introduced crops such as lemons, oranges and pistachios, as well as sugarcane production, laying the foundations for some of the area's most famous dishes, including cannoli and cassata.
The name Marzamemi itself is believed to come from the Arabic phrase “marsa al-hamama”, which translates as bay of the doves. Another theory is that it is a combination of the Arabic words “marsa”, port, and “memi”, small.
On the Dolce & Gabbana catwalk, these Arabian influences were reinterpreted in voluminous harem pants, sash belts, embroidered velvet slippers, long flowing robes and bejewelled accessories, fit for a sultan.
Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce honed in on a little-known legend from Sicily’s Arab past. When the Normans drove the Arabs from Sicily, they allowed the wife of Emir Ben Avert and their daughter, Calafarina, to return to their homeland unscathed. The two women arrived in Marzamemi flanked by 30 guards and 100 mules laden with gold and precious gems.
Using magic and trickery, the women hid their spoils in a cave near the beach, before meeting a tragic end. Legend has it that this treasure still waits to be discovered, and Dolce and Gabbana may well have unearthed the mythical hoard, judging from the level of adornment heaped on their latest Alta Sartoria offerings.
“We took the legend of the princess and we took the jewels and put them all over the clothes,” Gabbana explained before the show. “So it’s a very sparkling collection. It’s very unusual … a collection filled with fantasy.”
Bejewelled body harnesses, bibs and head coverings offered a glittering, high-fashion take on body armour, juxtaposed with jeans for the ultimate statement in high-low style. Gladiator sandals consisting of enormous crystals snaked up the calf, while wide trousers were tucked into knee-high boots for a touch of the cavalier.
There were gold brocade suits, satin and lace kimonos, and velvet robes in shimmering shades of blue, paired with heaped necklaces crafted from multi-coloured crystals. A kaftan in leopard jacquard was uplifted with velvet detailing and a decorative fringe, while fluid silk suits came in stunning jewel tones that sung in the evening light. There was an overriding sense of fluidity in the chiffon drawstring trousers, three-piece linen suits and oversized, V-neck tops shaped from Chantilly lace.
“We took inspiration from the Arabian [influence],” Dolce said. “And we want to show the audience a piece of Sicilian folklore.”