Dolce & Gabbana’s annual feast of men’s couture is one of the most dramatic and memorable events on the fashion calendar. Alta Sartoria, as it’s known, is much more than a runway show: it’s a multi-day experience, set in a lavish location, where the house’s A-list clients come together to celebrate the pinnacle of sartorial craftsmanship. There are dinners, there is dancing, there is shopping. And there is a runway show where Dolce & Gabbana’s rarest and most exclusive creations are unveiled before a rapt audience, who rush to order the one-of-one pieces immediately following.
Monday’s Alta Sartoria runway outing in Venice, Italy featured a different kind of rush in its closing moments. Given the risk of inclement weather, Dolce & Gabbana moved the show an hour earlier. As the models began swaggering down a massive, mirrored runway along the medieval Venice Arsenale, the sky darkened. The well-heeled crowd, most attired in their finest Alta Sartoria fits, held its collective breath. And then, as a trio of models wearing lavish, jewel-toned satin suits stepped onto the runway, the skies unleashed a massive hailstorm.
What followed was a furious stampede backstage along the warehouses of the Arsenale, guests screaming as the skies pelted them with marble-sized chunks of ice. Once everyone got to shelter, though, terror ceded to peals of laughter. Not even a harrowing storm—one that none in attendance will soon forget—could dampen the Alta Sartoria party. In fact, having seen capes and suits resplendent with fairy tale materials (gold leaf, diamonds, reconstructed feathers, crystals, Murano glass), executed by months of painstaking handiwork, the question on everyone’s mind was whether the clothing had escaped unscathed, too.
In a way, the storm reflected the immense beauty and energy of Venice that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana channeled through the collection. Each Alta Sartoria season includes artistic and artisanal flourishes of the city where it’s shown, and Venice has more than most. (Even the frightening and striking sky over the runway seemed to explain why five centuries of painters chose Venice as their port of call.)
Venice is everywhere in this collection, in both context and content. A hub of fine arts, applied arts, and architecture, Venice is a city whose wonder has persisted over time, a living and breathing monument to the intelligent pursuit of beauty. It’s a beauty that must be seen, touched, and felt in person. As Domenico Dolce put it before the show: “Love is not technology; Venice is not technology.”