Dolce & Gabbana: Alta Moda as the Rinascita in Florence
Nostalgia for a more innocent era, and one where Italy was emerging from another great drama, was the theme of Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show in Florence Thursday night, the first women’s fashion collection by a major house shown on the planet since lockdown this spring.
Specifically, a certain wistfulness for an event in Florence in 1951, when entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Giorgini staged the First Italian High Fashion Season in his private villa. Marking the first ever women’s ready-to-wear season in Europe; the initial spark in the development of the Italian fashion industry, and indeed the reemergence of the nation from the darkness of World War II.
Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana named this collection Rinascita, in English rebirth, in deliberate juxtaposition to Renaissance, their title for the previous evening’s bespoke menswear collection, staged in Florence’s city hall.
Back in Feb 1951, that first tiny “season” featuring 10 small local fashion designers – names like Emilio Pucci, Emilio Schuberth and Sorelle Fontana – attracted just six buyers, but it was an exceptional event, which started international press and fashion magazines speaking about Italian fashion. Moreover, just as the canny Giorgini called on local crafts people to present their best ideas to the North American buyers he convinced to come to Florence, this week Milan-based Dolce & Gabbana had some three dozen companies of tiny artisans collaborate on their glamorous invasion of Florence.
The end result was a frequently brilliant display of sunny Italian élan and optimism, albeit made in retro silhouettes, recalling that more gentle era.
As dusk fell over the capital of Renaissance, the first models marched down the steps of the garden of Villa Bardini, which sweeps spectacularly down the river Arno. A stunning crinoline with a marvelous illustration of the Duomo; accessorized with a multi-million-euro ruby necklace and delightful iris-shaped hat, debuted the show. Sumptuous chic throughout – from the satin ball gowns in a print of the Palazzo Vecchio topped by a jet black feather tank glistening with crystals, to the flowing A-Line silk coat done with a water-color image of the Ponte Vecchio.
Before Domenico and Stefano went into overdrive at the finale. A trio of gloriously golden straw dresses, bustiers and jackets recalling the early Fifties to a bird of paradise gown made of scores of canary yellow cock feathers.
Post-show, guests dined al fresco on beautifully laid tables with superb silver centerpieces courtesy of Pampaloni, from designs dating back to the 16th century. A golden tinged dinner, each dish finished with edible gold leaf courtesy of Giusto Manetti, including a main course of a gilded filetto di manzo. Two of local artisans who contributed to three days of Dolce & Gabbana events, including a haute joaillerie showroom; bespoke menswear show and wine tasting in Italy’s greatest quality wine producer, Antinori.
“The image of fashion nowadays is very big: giant shows, huge boutiques and massive social media reach, but artisans have tiny businesses. Literally, when you visit them, their studios are very small. You are face to face with them as soon as you walk in the door!” chuckled Domenico Dolce, who visited Florence eight times this year, individually meeting each of the artisans.
After marching all the way to the bottom of the stairway and back up, the cast posed before an arbor of giant pink roses and crimson bougainvillea. Whether a semi-sheer lace coat finished with yellow clothe lilies and trimmed with ermine or a ravishing white tulle cocktail with tiny hand-made floral buds, the craftsmanship was impeccable.
The duo taking their bow to a Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland duet of Libiamo Ne’lieti Calici, and to golden fireworks display, before a backdrop of the neo-gothic Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried.
A final Dolce & Gabbana display from the designers, and their never-ending love song to their own country.
“That’s what we do. Our métier is to create Italian fashion. And that’s what people expect when they come to see Dolce & Gabbana – Italy,” concluded Dolce.
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