Picture this: Jennifer Hudson is singing live ‘Nessun Dorma’ and a rainbow crowns the glorious Piazzetta San Marco in Venice, where La Serenissima used to invite ambassadors and rulers visiting the city to disembark. It seems like a dream, right? Leave it to Dolce & Gabbana to make dreams come true. The Italian brand presented its Alta Moda show, the Italian equivalent of haute couture, in a scene worthy of a Tintoretto painting.
One of the biggest editions ever in terms of number of guests, the Venice showcase was, naturally, as grand as its host city: from the arrival of 100 models on 100 gondolas, to the guest list that included Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Kris Jenner, Normani, and Dame Helen Mirren. There was also Sean Combs, Monica Bellucci, and Heidi Klum, who were especially excited to see their daughters walk the runway.
As per tradition for Alta Moda, all the clothes are handmade, with the richest fabrics sourced and the most exquisite artisanal technics employed from all over Italy. “In our country, we have the best craftsmanship in the world. And it’s the best in the world because we do it with passion,” explain the designers, also pointing out, “but don’t dare to ask an artisan how many hours something took to make, that’s not the point.” From the endless detail of the dresses seen on the runway, we can guess that countless hours were invested in the precious parade of designs sourcing silks, brocades, velvets, glass and crystals, embroideries, and precious fabrics. “When you see something metallic looking like gold… it’s real gold,” reminds Domenico Dolce.
Like out of a Casanova novel, there were beaded dresses that reminded of colorful Murano chandeliers, magnificent looks recreating iconic Venetian mosaics, jackets with XL shoulders and harlequin masks, and spectacular capes embellished with postcard images of the city. In a move to make the collection feel more suitable for a younger audience, there were also fewer of the usual ball gowns, with silhouettes becoming more playful and youthful, especially when paired with flats and rebellious colored hair, from pink to green. This year, maybe because the world is still recovering from Covid-19 and some are still shy of full-on glamour, not all the looks were so opulent, with a selection of dresses that impressed with their simplicity, avoiding any embroidery, and just relying on beautifully cut fabrics and rich colors.
High jewelry, too, provided show and splendor. Ahead of the Alta Moda show, this year’s Alta Gioielleria spectacular lit up the Palazzo Ducale and offered further dazzle to its historic pink marble facade. Set against Tintoretto’s Il Paradiso – one of the world’s largest paintings on canvas – was a sensational collection of sumptuous tourmalines, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires set in gold crafted into earrings, rings, necklaces, and bracelets. Scenes depicted Venetian gondoliers while romantic roses coiled around dainty wrists. Master craftsmen harnessed the centuries-old arts of glass and mosaic work along with goldwork to highlight the best of Made in Italy. A standout piece featured stone-carved skulls that pay homage to the conflict between Eros and Thanatos (life and death) – a constant theme in the history of art and literature. It features over 200 elements assembled by hand.
Bringing the Alta Moda collection to poetic life are four women friends who live and work in Venice. Cristina Trincanato opened the doors of the enchanting palazzo where she lives with her husband, Inti Ligabue, who oversees the namesake foundation of his late father, paleontologist Giancarlo Ligabue. Among their home’s artefacts are pieces from America, Oceania, and Africa and Venetian visual art, which conscientiously showcase another facet of the rich heritage of the city. Here, along with Giulia Bevilacqua, Perine Renard, and Silvia Paulon, Trincanato dons voluminous fabrics of the most luxurious silks and satins, that appear almost painted by setting sunrays. But don’t take their dalliances and playful dress up among friends as sermon. These women – entrepreneurs, mothers, jet-setters – are the faces of the Venice of tomorrow, and it is their joyful nature that bridges the past.
Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia