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Dolce & Gabbana hit high fashion notes with menswear ode to composer Giuseppe Verdi

MILAN // While the rest of the fashion world has just unveiled previews of menswear for autumn/winter, leading house Dolce & Gabbana is doing things a little differently.

Clinging to the idea that clothes should be seasonless and immediately available, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana debuted their men’s couture recently in Milan.

What saved this, and their previous Alta Sartoria collections, from the industry’s rigid fall/winter, spring/summer categorisation, was the dexterous use of evergreen fabrics.

Recognising that one client’s summer is another client’s winter, the Italian designers sent breezy silk shirts, insulating astrakhan separates and embellished denim down the runway at the same time.

The designs catered to the “globe-trotting, gala attending, lavish lifestyle” needs of D&G’s couture audience, which largely consisted of regional royals, global heirs, wealthy captains of industry and European dignitaries.

With the cost of pieces often rising to hundreds of thousands of dirhams, D&G’s couture capsule wardrobe encompassed a wide range of looks, from springlike daywear pyjama robes and autumnal form-fitting, double-breasted suits to timeless winter greatcoats.

In a regional exclusive, The National was invited to the launch of the collection at the La Scala Opera House. The latest edition was a tribute to revered Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi and the venue has hosted many of his famous performances. “Finally we’ve been able to give our personal tribute to Verdi – we’re very big fans,” says Gabbana.

“The Verdi we’re showing here is not just the one we all know – the composer, conductor, the musician – we also explore the private man and his personal life through the collection.”

Much of this Alta Sartoria epitomised a Victorian dandy’s dream wardrobe.

For example, the era’s mainstay outer garments – frock coats, dress-coats and overcoats – were prominent in velvet, brocade, printed silk and double cashmere.

Gloves were embellished with semi-precious stones and weighty gold embroidery, lapels sparkled with bejewelled brooches, and models sported wide-brimmed campaign hats.

Nods to the Regency period of Verdi’s life included opulent wool tailcoats and straight-cut silk waistcoats. Mirroring the composer’s personal style, dress shirts were stiff and starched, topped with a neckcloth of ivory or black silk, double-wrapped and tied to the front.

Top hats featured in wool satin, albeit missing the collapsible springs that allowed them to fold flat for easy storage at the opera in Verdi’s day. Contemporary elements that played into the 19th century romance of the show included featherlight, fringed opera scarves and dress jackets printed with original scores, performance playbills and libretto from Verdi’s oeuvre.

During his life, the maestro produced nearly 30 operas, including Aida, Otello, Nabucco and La Traviata. His 1893 production of Falstaff at La Scala reportedly earned him and the cast a sustained standing ovation that lasted for an hour.

“We researched the archives and had permission to bring prints of the first posters and manuscripts to life in embroidery.” says Dolce.

“It was emotional for us to touch the originals and incredible to think they still exist.”  

Interspersed with ballooning velvet capes, weighed down with intricate beading and rich threadwork, were sportswear separates of mink bomber jumpers and metallic-thread appliqué jeans, teamed with baker-boy caps. Shoes ran the gamut from sleek, micro-sole opera slippers to heavy-set lace-up ankle boots in black and crimson alligator.  

“The idea was to present Verdi to the young people of today in an easy way,” says Dolce. “We tried not to make it too complicated or dramatic, but instead represent his work, his country life and passion for food.

“When you look at our sketches and the clothes, maybe it’s too obvious or considered ‘too Italian’, but we just love Verdi and we think that sportswear with Verdi pictures on it is very cool, especially for young people.”

Following their Alta Sartoria show, the designers followed in the culinary footsteps of Verdi with a private dinner at the venue where the composer would often eat to celebrate his opening nights at La Scala.

The restaurant, Don Carlos – named after Verdi’s opera of the same name – is housed within the historic Grand Hotel et de Milan, in which Verdi had a private residence from 1872 and spent his final days. “Today, the menus Verdi used to eat don’t really work but the spirit still does – he really enjoyed la dolce vita,” says Dolce.

“I’m Sicilian and I have the same philosophy with food and fashion. If you fly all the way to my house for dinner, I’m not going to just give you an appetiser and send you away unhappy. There will be a starter, pasta, meat, second, third courses and cake.

“It’s the same with our shows, I don’t believe in just 22 pieces. If you arrive late, you’d miss the whole thing. That’s why we sent out 101 pieces today. We have to give our everything to the audience – our hearts, our minds, our passion.”


Updated: February 7, 2017 04:00 AM

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