Fashion

The Otherworldly Opulence of Dolce & Gabbana's Alta Sartoria Extravaganza

This year, D&G took to Venice along with a pack of celebrities and well-heeled customers to celebrate Italian craftsmanship.
IMAGE GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO
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For Dolce & Gabbana, Italy’s preeminent purveyor of the baroque in fashion, the country is a rich and unending source of inspiration for upscale occasion wear. That richness—of color and pattern and technique—pervades the clothing and accessories through and through, but nowhere more than in the yearly three-day extravaganza around its Alta Sartoria and Alta Moda lines. These draw together the many inspirations of Italian culture and reinvent them for a select band of die-hard, big-money Dolce & Gabbana customers. And the clothes are available to buy immediately. But to call it a see-now-buy-now event hardly nails the frenzy of excitement generated by these seasonless, hand-made, one-off clothes, available only to the select few who have flown in especially with the wherewithal to pay for them. The term "high on fashion" may have been coined just for this very special weekend.

Backstage at the Alta Sartoria show.

Photo by GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO.
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Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, one of the longest-running design partnerships in fashion, have staged the Alta Moda (women’s) and Alta Sartoria (men’s) events in tandem since 2015, twice a year, each time in a different place, sometimes in Milan but more often than not in a storied southern Italian resort or a location where a stunning historical backdrop is required to match the clothes. Capri, Positano, Agrigento, Sorrento all delivered the right whiff of expense, romance, and escape. But nowhere, perhaps, in the years the duo has been doing it, has quite matched this latest locale, Venice, for sheer otherworldly opulence.

A closer look at one of the handmade pieces created for the event.

Photo by GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO.

Alta Sartoria, the men’s version of couture, was set up in 2015 to draw in the customers in love with the duo’s penchant for ornate, handmade clothes that draw on centuries of artisanal skill—and not just in tailoring—to celebrate all things Italian. This year, Venice celebrated the 1600th anniversary of its founding in 421, just as the country as a whole emerged blinking from its long pandemic siege. Venice is alive again and in a mood to celebrate.

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Ornate jacquard fabrics are a hallmark of the Alta Sartoria collection.

Photo by GREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO.

By decree in late July, Venice banned from the lagoon the super-sized cruise ships that have dwarfed the city and ruined the views for years, finally stemming the tide of the sort of tourists who clog up the bridges and alleyways and vaporetti searching for nothing more cultured than Happy Meals and Venetian fridge magnets. Still, the alleyways and bridges and gondolas are packed once again with visitors of a different sort. An even bigger indication that things in fashion land are getting back to something like normal—if you could call this sort of thing normal—was a star-studded guest list for the weekend that included J-Lo (sans new old boyfriend), Sharon Stone, Dame Helen Mirren, Sean Combs, Vin Diesel, and Christian Bale. Yet the private, non-celeb guests in town for the event (500 guests in total) provided the celebs with sparkling competition.

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Photo by Dolce & Gabbana.

Photo by Dolce & Gabbana.

Dolce & Gabbana’s brief-yet-extravagant residency in the city took in several of its most historic sights, like the Doge’s Palace, the Arsenale, and the Rialto Bridge, each of which were venues for cocktails, dinners, displays of high jewelry and a new home line (Dolce & Gabbana Casa), and the real deal for Dolce & Gabbana’s ardent fans—the fashion shows themselves. The men’s show took place in the Arsenale, the ancient cluster of armories and shipyards, recently restored and converted into the nerve center of Venice’s MOSE project, a flood barrier to prevent the damaging seasonal flooding of the city, scheduled to be completed this year.

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Fittingly, the 500m runway hovered above the water while the models shimmered along it in leather mosaic tops, robes printed in venetian scenes, and ornate brocades. For the clients—taking the time to wallow in the sheer and unabashed grandeur of it all—this Venice weekend, like the ones before it, is customer experience elevated to a sublime degree that does a great deal to uphold the duo’s position as fashion royalty.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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