There were fairies at the bottom of Domenico Dolce’s garden last night. Queen Titania in a golden crown and a vast, princess-y, gilded crinoline, too. There was even a girl with a pair of lace donkey ears, à la Bottom, wending her way amongst the ninety-four Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda looks worn by girls who stepped carefully down a steep winding pathway and onto the expanse of runway which stretched across Dolce’s lawn, at sunset in Portofino. An Italianate Midsummer Night’s Dream, brought to life in Dolce’s own domain.
It was unreal, on many levels. Guests converged from all over the world to participate in the designers’ weekend of “at home,” deliberately surreal entertainments. “I want to bring them to a place where fantasy and reality become confused,” said Dolce. He’d drawn up every detail of his Arcadian happening in his sketchbooks—Roman centurion and Renaissance pages holding flower-garlanded arches over the heads of arriving guests, trees sprouting ceramic Majolica apples, nymphs with filigree wings, Puck-like figures suspended from branches.
Some arrived by sea. As the preparations went on—an army of workers hauling the props and banqueting provisions half a mile up the vertingous narrow walkway from the town—Stefano Gabbana padded along the quay front in shorts, greeting friends. A towering super-yacht, complete with an on-board swimming pool, had just pulled up next to his own impressive vessel. Who did that belong to? “A client,” he said. “Russian.”
So it was a cosmopolitan assembly, an enthusiastic women’s club of couture customers, in girlish high-summer holiday spirits, with their husbands and partners, who descended on Dolce’s garden of sybaritic delights. Before them were temptations in excess: corseted ballgowns galore, black lace wicked widow see-through dresses, patchworked multicolored fox fur brocade Poiret coats, Maharaja bejwelled turbans, lushly sweeping silk kimonos. One-offs, for a one-off night—a theatrical crescendo for a couture and resort-presentation-laden summer which has broken all historical records in terms of air miles (and in this case sea miles) traveled. Sometimes, one wonders whether all the mind-bendingly extravagant expenditure can possibly result in concrete sales—or whether what we’ve been seeing is a reputational marketing expenditure amortized over perfume and accessories categories, in the expectation of some diffuse payback at a later date. In this case—on the evidence of the changing-room frenzy which broke out after dinner, when customers jostled and laughed as they tried on the looks—there is no doubt Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda fantasy, to some people, is very much reality.
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