Dolce & Gabbana stages show of dramatic style in Milan
Dolce & Gabbana’s latest fashion show at one of the world’s top opera houses was dramatic. Chen Jie reports in Milan on all that jazz.
La Scala is a prestigious name in the world of opera, but on Sunday the opera house turned into a fashion venue for gorgeous women and men from around the world, and had splendid clothing, the clapping of hands and opera arias all in abundance.
It was Italian label Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda ( haute couture) show. Some 200 guests, mostly clients and members of the media from the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Mexico and other countries sat on gilded chairs on the stage recreating a scene from the opera Rigoletto, with a full view of the auditorium and the boxes.
A total of 88 models including Ju Xiaowen from China, walked from the back of the auditorium straight onto the stage and around the audience to music from the operas Turandot, Tosca and Madame Butterfly, among others.
On show were models wearing bodyhugging black sheaths, tailored skirts with golden buttons on cuffs and gored fishtail hemlines, a deep green, swatch- neck silk velvet dress like Scarlet wore in Gone With the Wind and the gilded lace pagoda- shoulder Madame Butterfly dress.
There was a thrilling sense of high drama as models dressed as opera characters Tosca, Turandot, Minnie and Cio- cio- cio San walked the ramp. Another model dressed as a late Qing Dynasty ( 1644- 1911) princess received a lot of attention.
After the audience was led offstage, the curtain closed and then the set changed: more than 20 tables set for a celebration lunch emerged like a raised platform.
It was the first time the stage of La Scala had been given over to fashion.
“It’s a great success,” Alexander Pereira, director of La Scala, announced.
Paolo Besana, La Scala’s director of public relations, tells China Daily over lunch that at La Scala, if the audience did not like an opera, they would shout “boo” immediately, but for this show, nobody did so. So why La Scala? The venue is a combination of fashion and opera, which are the quintessence of Italian culture, Besana says.
“La Scala is a symbol of Italian culture,” 57- year- old designer Domenico Dolce tells China Daily, sharing the story of how the fashion house was inspired to do the show here.
The muse was “Biki” ( Elvira Leonardi Bouyeure, 1906- 99), granddaughter of composer Giacomo Puccini ( 1858- 1924) who wrote Turandot, Tosca and Madame Butterfly.
Puccini called her Biki and often took her to opera houses.
She saw the premiere of Turandot at La Scala in 1926.
Her taste and passion for elegance, the desire to gain independence inspired her to create haute couture. She started doing it in 1934 and then dressed many in high society, including soprano Maria Callas.
“Biki was a strong, emancipated woman, determined to leave a mark in the history of Alta Moda,” says designer Stefano Gabbana, 53.
“She inspired us. Alta Moda for Biki was like a dream come true. And we still believe in that dream. Her creations and ours are born out of passion for elegance, love for Italian culture and the desire to clothe gorgeous women in unique garments.”
The day before the women’s haute couture show, Dolce & Gabbana launched its Alta Sartoria ( men’s haute couture) collection at its headquarters in Corso Venezia, the former Palazzo Labus, first built in 1565.
The colors of the ceilings and walls of the ancient rooms inspired the designer duo to create a neo- classical dawn- pink jacket for men.
The menswear range features collections for sports fans from tennis and golf to polo. Gabbana says he read that tennis was first played in Italy.
The inspiration for the collection also came from movie stars — Fred Astaire in the Three Little Words ( 1950) and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in movie Road to Utopia ( 1946).
One bear- hug fur coat was inspired by 1920s Boston University.
Gabbana says he does not rely much on online search engines, but does his research using books and historical materials.
“I don’t look at images on the computer screen. I want to find the old thing and then create balance using modern and old things,” he says.
This philosophy also showed up in their high- fashion jewelry display on Friday. Among some 300 pieces, many were created using old stones or things they got from antique jewelry of 16 th- century Naples.
Dolce & Gabbana’s collection for each sport has clothes for each stage of the game.
For example, after you arrive at a tennis court, you first play, then take a shower after the game and then go to a party. And the clothes are not related to any specific fashion season.
The designer duo says they don’t create fashion, but style.
“We create things that are timeless. There’s no season. People buy immediately after the show. And our customers travel globally. Now it’s winter in Milan, but warm, maybe Beijing is frozen and Brazil is hot,” says Gabbana, adding that about half of the Alta Moda clothes were sold right after the show.
For the boots and some clothes needing special techniques depending on the sport, the duo works with experienced artisans and experts.
“I personally don’t play any sport, I play with fabrics and colors, but our customers love them ( the clothes),” Dolce says laughing, and adds that one customer from California once asked them to do something for tennis.
Sweating in his silk shirt peppered with prints of miniature tennis rackets, the designer carefully showed journalists the pieces backstage and encouraged people to touch them.
“You should touch them, the feeling is different. These days, people say they don’t have time. They shop online. Why? Where has your time gone? What’s the problem? You need to go to see your doctor ( laughs). You need to live your life in a good way. You need time to eat, to drink, to sleep and very important, with family and friends.
“I love to buy fruits, flowers or breads in stores where you touch, you smell and you talk with people.”
The designers follow their hearts and their own philosophy, somehow old school, such as keeping the three- day high- fashion weekend quite intimate, like a family, and without fashion bloggers as they seek to stay away from social media.
Now, they have a school in Milan, training young talents in their own way to continue the Dolce & Gabbana’s philosophy, Italian culture, creative designs and delicate tailoring.
“We’ve worked in the business for some 30 years. It’s not a job, it’s out life. We still enjoy it and every day is a surprise, every day is a new life. And we are new designers every day,” Gabbana says.