Kenneth Goh escapes for a week to the hedonistic kingdom of Dolce&Gabbana’s Alta Modaoda in Lake Como—a fantastical court where nothing is ever enoughugh
Avoluptuous British girl, her blonde locks framing a peaches and cream complexion, enters the buzzing Villa Bolivianina at Lake Como, Italy. She looks vaguely familiar, her large eyes looking down on the floor whenever a stranger’s gaze catches hers. It is Lady Kitty Spencer, and she bears a striking resemblance to her famous late aunt, Princess Diana. The 27-year-old British model stands patiently as Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana make last-minute alterations to the outfit she’ll be wearing to open the Alta Moda show later this evening. Tears stream down Spencer’s face as she catches sight of herself in the mirror as Dolce fits her.“This is so beautiful.Thank you, thank you so much,” she blurts out, sobbing into the arms of the diminutive Dolce. She’s dressed in a billowing 18th-century-inspired skirt and corseted top; emblazoned across the puff sleeves are extracts from I Promessi Sposi ( The Betrothed), the Italian histor ical novel by Alessandro Manzoni. On her skirt, in bright technicolor prints, are the book’s ill-fated lovers, Renzo and Luciana. The final gold crown that Gabbana lowers on her head seals her look and completes her royal regalia.
It’s an appropriate look to start what must be the most extravagant fashion event Lake Como has ever held on its shores. Alta Moda is the Italian duo’s version of haute couture; there was also Alta Gioielleria (high jewellery) the day before and Alta Sartoria (menswear) that is to take place the day after—a chaotic, infinitely excessive, fourday shopping extravaganza, set in some of Italy’s most picturesque surroundings. Guests have ample opportunities to marvel at the Italian duo’s wizardry, be it at the pop-up shop on board a boat, dinner on the grounds of a church in Bellagio or entertainment courtesy of Tinie Tempah. Nightly fireworks, ample food and a free-flowing bar ensure you are merry well into the wee hours of the morning. For the Alta Moda show,Teresio Olivelli Park in Tremezzina, famed for its majestic water vista, has been transfor med into a playground for the rich and fabulous; with 350 of the world’s most well-heeled guests and over 120 models in attendance. With everyone dressed up to the nines, it’s hard to make out who are the models versus the guests. Models Ashley Graham, Eva Herzigova, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Maye Musk (mother of Elon) and Halima Aden stand out in all their finery. Nothing has been spared for Alta Moda—the most luscious furs, brightest sequins, softest feathers, finest silks; and acres and acres of needlepoint-stitched prints featuring the starcrossed lovers from Manzoni’s book, picturesque scenes of Lake Como and so much more. “There’s not just one reference in one outfit; maybe you’ll find five different references and five different points, in one outfit,” Gabbana notes.“It’s very schizophrenic.”
There’s something for everyone in the collection of 100 looks—whether you choose the all-black lace confections spor ted by Ashley Graham and Helena Christensen, kaleidoscopic glamour à la Naomi Campbell in her feather and floral gown with matching headdress, or pageboy-chic as seen on Eva Herzigova in her powder blue satin ensemble.There is only one word to describe the entire vibe and feel of the show: Opulence.The audience watches transfixed at all the fabulousness going down the garden runway, lounging on chaise lounge sofas in their Alta Moda outfits (many bought from previous shows), sipping champagne and eating canapés served by models dressed as nuns and priests. Everyone has their phones out, snapping outfits not just for Instagram, but to send to their sales associates to book looks running up to thousands of euros. Such is the extravagance and no one, bar the select few bemused members of the media, thinks that any of this profligate spending is out of the ordinary.
“It’s like a dream. It’s our dream. The dream is completely crazy,” says Gabbana. “This experience is beautiful because we discover all the cultures.We respect all the religions, all the cultures, all the sizes, all the ages.This is the modern life.”
And indeed, as guests take in the splendour of Lake Como and fine Italian craftsmanship, it is like a dream come true. Gabbana sums it up best: “We cannot explain exactly what we do. It is our imagination.We mix everything. I think in this moment in the fashion system, everybody needs to explain and explain. Fashion is art. It is impossible to plan anything in fashion… You cannot explain anything.These days, there are too many theories.Too many people talking about nothing. At the end of the day, it’s clothes, and it’s emotional.” ■
Clockwise from top left: Lady Kitty Spencer opens the Alta Moda show in a dramatic gown. Naomi Campbell captivates in an embroidered bustier with a voluminous feather and silk skirt. A brilliant printed silk coat from theAlta Sartoria men’s collection
From top: Models in bold prints and patterns at the Alta Sartoria show. Dolce and Gabbana with some of their favourite models. Eva Herzigova and Helena Christensen play the parts of pageboy and Italian widow respectively. A diamond-encrusted fob watch from the Alta Gioelleria collection