February 19, 2024

The first start of the show was literal: a model descended the slope of Alberobello by a stone staircase between the trulli, the typical medieval buildings of this Italian town that became an enormous conical hat that finished off a looks black corsetry covered by a gauze dress. It had been announced the same Sunday morning by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana: Alta Moda, the tailor-made collection of the Italian brand, was a tribute to the Puglia region, to the town of Alberobello. It would be more contained than those they had presented in the previous 11 years: spectacular productions full of celebrities, millionaires and taffeta dresses blowing in the wind in monumental places like Venice or Sicily. This year the actresses Helen Mirren and Angela Bassett, and Kris Jenner and a Kim Kardashian sofialorenizada they grabbed the attention.

“This place is very special, and this is the most authentic parade we have ever done in our lives. We have been inspired by the origins of the villa. We wanted to celebrate something real, the normal people of the town, as if it were a movie, but it is not a pantomime, it is not a theater”, explained Stefano Gabbana that morning, half of the Sicilian duo that recreates in each collection a very graphic imagery of the most traditional Italy. As on other occasions, the residents of the area participated in the parade staging the old trades through the narrow streets of the town: basketry, embroidery, carving. “You don’t need the artifice. As in Italy, the most important food is bread. With bread and oil it is enough”, said Domenico Dolce.

Precisely along the way to the square where the parade was held, there were stalls of women kneading dough to make taralis, the addictive fried bread rolls typical of Puglia. The references to the trades were not accidental. This region still preserves traditional embroidery techniques with which the designers have worked on the collection. In the same garment they used different techniques and fabrics, not as if it were a patchwork but like an intarsia, all intertwined with each other. Basketry, for example, serves as the technical basis for braiding with silk or mikados that can later be seen in semi-rigid dresses that appear to be made with cattail. “It all started with the bread basket,” said Domenico. From then on, the collection develops with exquisite fabrics, trompe l’oeils by the trulli embroidery on skirts and dresses, lace made with wool. The crochet that could be seen in several white dresses was woven by inhabitants of this region in the south of the country. The parade occupied the entire town: the models descended the steps and paraded along a catwalk in the center of the square, which the neighbors were surrounding.

Four of the 87 outings from Dolce & Gabbana's new Alta Moda collection, presented in a runway show on July 9, 2023.
Four of the 87 outings from Dolce & Gabbana’s new Alta Moda collection, presented in a runway show on July 9, 2023.

The 87 outlets in the collection—not enough to cater for the 500 clients who went there—alternated between white, black and beige, interrupted only by classic red dresses and a series of evening pieces in pastel colors or with monochrome flower appliqués in vibrant purple or fuchsia. There were hardly any frills, there was no taffeta or devoré velvet or baroque brocade. “It’s ordinary clothes passed through the ways of High Fashion,” said the designers, who described the clothes as garments for cooking in a couture version. Some knotted silk apron could be seen on transparent gauze dresses, silk scarves on the head and always, throughout the parade, flat shoes that lowered the garments to their most pragmatic side.

“High Fashion is not just clothes, it is an aristocratic way of life. A relationship with the buyer is created. You have to wait, you have to test. We talk. And we listen. It is a very long process. Everything is made by hand”, they explained after sarcastically baptizing this event in Puglia as “Dolce & Gabbana fashion week”. But the hundreds of guests who were fighting on WhatsApp at that time to have one of these unique dresses are not fed by a parade.

Stefano Gabbana and, on the right, Domenico Dolce, after the show of their Alta Moda collection presented in Alberobello.
Stefano Gabbana and, on the right, Domenico Dolce, after the show of their Alta Moda collection presented in Alberobello.

The festivities began on Friday, July 7, with a presentation of the project that the actress Helen Mirren created in Puglia to save the thousand-year-old olive trees from a xylela plague that almost wiped them out. On Saturday, buyers of high jewelry met, those pieces with seven-digit prices of which there is only one copy and which were displayed in a field of olive trees. The Alta Moda show followed on Sunday and this Monday the Alta Sartoria show was held in Ostuni where, as Domenico explained, “they organized the Sant’Oronzo parade on August 27 for us”. “We reproduce it in the Dolce & Gabbana way, because there is always a manipulation”, Stefano laughed, “but respecting the spirit and character of the parade”. The idea, they told before the parade, is to reinterpret the wedding trousseau, but for men: “It is more interesting to see something very feminine in a man. Everything is beige, white, a touch of brown.

At sunset on Monday, in a Piazza della Libertà —as Dolce had foreseen— bathed in pink light and under the watchful gaze of decked out riders and nervous horses, a small army of models put inspiration to flesh. The baroque tailoring of other seasons was still there, but the embroideries (many of them old, from garments and trousseau that the designers have been buying), the featherweights and the fluid cuts, between an altar boy and a Persian prince, were in charge. The temperature rose from the neat robes made with old hand-finished sheets from the beginning: glamorous bodies draped in beige, golden folds, suggestive armor made with pieces that looked like pieces of ceramic on the torso or magnificent jeweled jackets, culminated a perfect parade to satisfy the imperial aspirations of those who can afford it (it should be added that many of these garments are sold out before leaving the catwalk).

Three of the outputs of the Alta Sartoria fashion show in Ostuni by Dolce & Gabbana, on Monday, July 10.
Three of the outputs of the Alta Sartoria fashion show in Ostuni by Dolce & Gabbana, on Monday, July 10.

Two emblematic places in Puglia claimed by a brand that prides itself on recovering old trades in the area: Ostuni, which rules from on high, and Alberobello, located in a rural agricultural area where the landscapes are made up of vineyards, straw bales, millenary olive trees and, in the background and not always perceptible, the sea. This population concentrates the largest amount of trulli of the region, the buildings with a cylindrical base and a conical roof built in stone. Its particularity? They are houses made with no more structure than the perimeter itself and a finish at the top of the roof without which the house cannot stand. In the past, this piece was used to drop the building when the tax collectors arrived. Then they got up again. At a time when tourism is sometimes a new form of colonization, it is surprising to see the design duo’s nose for putting precise places on the map. Last year the Alta Moda show was in Syracuse. Three months later the second season of white lotus, for which they feel partly responsible. Shortly after, now a year ago, they were in Alberobello “at 40º” and decided that they wanted to make this corner of Italy so different from Syracuse known. So simple and not very monumental that it is beginning to appear in tourist guides. They also wanted to involve the people. “We asked them if they wanted to work with us to celebrate Alberobello and no one said no.” On Sunday, going up the hill after the parade, several neighbors gave effusive thanks for this appointment. This town already knows that if they ask for more than what they want to give, all they have to do is remove the piece from the roof of their teal and everything will start again.

The models of the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show walking through the streets of the town of Alberobello.
The models of the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show walking through the streets of the town of Alberobello.Donato Fasano (GC Images)

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