Renaissance & Roll at Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Sartoria
Mannerist menswear par excellence at Alta Sartoria, the couture collection of Dolce & Gabbana, presented with enormous fanfare in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s city hall, on Wednesday night.
The show – introduced by youthful mayor Dario Nardella, who also presented actress Monica Bellucci the keys to the city – featured 100 looks and marked the first major catwalk event by an acclaimed key fashion house since the world went into Covid-19 lockdown this spring.
All unveiled inside the Salone dei Cinquecento, the massive soaring council chamber decorated by giant frescoes by Giorgio Vasari, the first person to use the term Renaissance in print.
The show opened up with several medieval shirts finished with the red giglio, or iris, that the Medici adopted as the city’s emblem and which Florentines wore into battle, even during the First Crusade. One handsome youth marching proudly in a stunning swordsman’s version in cerulean blue and scarlet giglio made of feathers supplied by Duccio Mazzanti, a third generation Florentine feather specialist. He was one of 35 local expert artisans who contributed to this three-day series of Dolce&Gabbana events, including an opening haute joaillerie display and an alta moda show in a hilltop villa on Thursday night.
Throughout Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana referenced the great icons of the Renaissance – Michelangelo, Leonardo, Ghirlandaio and Botticelli. Interpreting the humanist ideas of that epoch – where man, and not god, became the center of the universe – in some outlandishly grand outfits. Climaxing with ducal robes in mink, bullion and gold embroidery. Worthy of Cosimo de' Medici, and echoing paintings of rulers of Florence, by the likes of Salviati. Portraits of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, the greatest condottiere of the era, even appeared on gold brocade tunics.
In yet another bravura moment, the duo transferred an image of a warrior amid swords, spears and bugles seen in Vasari’s enormous fresco of the Battle of Marciano onto a remarkable embroidered jacquard dressing gown finished with astrakhan lapels.
Moreover, the rich hues of those frescoes appeared in a series of devilishly well cut suits – composed of razor sharp double breasted jackets and sleek finished at the ankle pants.
The whole conception could easily have tripped over into cliché, except the finish was so spectacular, the color palette so intense and the sense of celebration so memorable. In short, menswear for men of distinction that reaches the level of haute couture achieved for the world’s wealthiest women.
“Thinking about it, after spending all this time here with the local artisans, I have realized that the true role of we Italians is to use ancient and new ideas create beauty for the world,” said Domenico in a pre-show press conference inside an ancient cloisters, igniting a burst of applause from the assembled group of some 100 of his co-nationals.
Five centuries ago, Leonardo da Vinci once attempted a novel method of drying one of his frescoes in the Salone dei Cinquecento, hanging hot coal braziers which only succeeded in melting the paint, causing the colors to run into a puddle on the floor. But everything worked extremely well in this collection. All the way to the mysterious lettering on several tuxedos, reading Cerca Trova, meaning Seek and Find, a reference to the myth that the remains of Leonardo’s damaged fresco are still hidden behind Vasari’s later work.
Post-show, guests were treated to a dramatic display of tamburini and sbandieratori – drummers and flag wavers in traditional costumes marching to sonorous drumming as hundreds of locals watched from the far side of the Piazza della Signoria.
Ironically, exactly where the austere Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, who briefly ruled Florence for four years, staged his bonfire of the vanities – when works of art by Botticelli and tapestries, mirrors, cosmetics and sculpture where destroyed – was executed in 1498.
Very certainly, Savonarola would have been appalled by the glorious excess of this Alta Sartoria collection with its supreme self-indulgence and hyper opulence. A brilliant fashion statement offering a vision of a brighter more optimistic future at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.
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