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Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Is London calling for Dolce & Gabbana after Hong Kong show, the fashion duo’s first outside their native Italy?

I just thought, ‘Why we don’t go to China?’ Domenico Dolce says of brand’s first show outside Italy, which featured one-of-a-kind Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria outfits. Now he’s floated a London event, though probably not any time soon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2016, 6:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 5:31pm

It’s 2am in Wan Chai and fashion icon Stefano Gabbana is dancing in the DJ booth, fists pumping as he sings along to George Michael’s Freedom. The expensively dressed crowd snaps away for their social media.

The party at Ophelia Bar is a blur of bling and body-con dresses in florals, gold embellishments and Italian excess on mostly Asian bodies – now signatures of Dolce & Gabbana style and glamour.

Freedom couldn’t be more apt for the eccentric Italian designer duo and global fashion powerhouse. Being an independent brand, without shareholders to consider, has allowed Dolce & Gabbana to make unexpected moves – delighting clients but stressing out their staff.

WATCH: Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce celebrate post show with guests The Peninsula Hong Kong

Instagam video: Stefano Gabbana

“It’s the ultimate freedom, to do a show like this,” says Domenico Dolce, ahead of their recent Hong Kong debut. “Sometimes if you think too much then you will kill the idea. We have no manager or CEO to tell us that we can’t do this or that, so we did it.”

And it’s not just a job, says Stefano Gabbana. “This is our whole life,” he says. “We are so lucky, we travel from Italy to this beautiful city, to make an Alta Moda (high fashion) show for the first time outside of Italy with all these beautiful Asian models. This freedom is our way.”

The duo flew into Hong Kong on their private jet a few days before the show. Dolce had only decided to do the show less than a month earlier, as he flew to Dubai. The result – a one-of-a-kind, Asian-inspired Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria (women’s and men’s couture respectively) combined show in Hong Kong – is a disruptive move in the world of couture, where clients usually have to travel to Paris to view collections, have fittings, and make purchases.

Why Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Sartoria line is a hit with Hong Kong’s super-rich

“I just thought, ‘Why we don’t go to China?’ I love not thinking too much about these things,” Dolce explains. “It’s our first show that we personally did outside of Italy. We wanted all Chinese models, both men and women, and it’s been amazing. This is because of our love for China.”

WATCH: the finale of Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria show in Hong Kong

️️️️️#DGLovesHongKong #Repost @stellaaminova ・・・ Pure beauty ! Alta Moda HK #MUMOFSIX ️

A video posted by stefanogabbana (@stefanogabbana) on Dec 1, 2016 at 11:48pm PST

Instagram video: Stefano Gabbana

“We love Hong Kong because it was the first city we saw in the East, all those years ago,” says Gabbana.

The “Italian Tribute to the Orient”show was a catwalk parade of 104 outfits in the lobby of The Peninsula hotel. The mostly Asian VIP clients – a rapidly growing market for D&G’s couture lines – were impressed by the red, embroidery and gold, nods to lucky Chinese colours and handiwork. The influence of Chinese aesthetics came more in the styling and accessories than the actual clothing. Dolce explains that they didn’t want to look backwards.

Male models in vintage round, Sun Yat Sen style glasses wore white or black tuxedos often embellished and embroidered.There were plush rich hued velvets and polka dots, regal golden accents and then sensual satin robes. Women were in glamorous gowns, rich florals and deep reds and burgundies.

Lush outfits recalled bygone eras with capes, bustiers, black lace dresses and plenty of gold and gold trim and furs. A peacock feather headdress worn with a gold lace gown and a Chinese style embroidered silk fuchsia men’s pyjama robe were striking.

Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda tribute to Sophia Loren in Naples, her home city

The launch of the Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria lines four years ago broke a couture mould. Instead of a 20-minute show like other big brands such as Christian Dior, Armani Privé, Valentino or Chanel during Couture Week in Paris, Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta events are held over three days, either around their Milan headquarters or in exotic locales around Italy.

WATCH: Dolce & Gabbana video of the Hong Kong show

Instagram video: Dolce & Gabbana

The format is inspired by couturiers of the past like Spain’s Cristobal Balenciaga, who did long shows that were social events.

“We’re learning from the old couture attitude when you really understand what the client wants,” Dolce says.

“Each Alta event is organised like a vision,” says Gabbana. “We love the idea of working like we’re making a movie, a dream, I don’t know if it’s the right one or not, but it’s a Dolce & Gabbana dream with a Chinese influence.”

The designers note that couture dates back to imperial times when extravagant outfits were made for kings, queens and nobility.

#DGLovesHongKong PARTY ️️️last night ️ @fashiontomax

A photo posted by stefanogabbana (@stefanogabbana) on Dec 3, 2016 at 8:07pm PST

Partying in Wan Chai. Instagram photo posted by Stefano Gabbana

“The men’s clothes were very embellished, embroidered,” says Dolce, “and people used to choose an different outfit for every occasion – we are offering that too.”

Some of the outfits aren’t their ideas, Gabbana reveals. A leather driving jumpsuit at their Naples show this summer was a request from a Ferrari-collecting client.

“Inspired by our clients, we discover a new world too,” says Dolce.

Theirs is an international clientele of some of the wealthiest people on Earth, and it’s a club that is growing. At their first Alta Moda show in Taormina, Sicily, about 80 clients were invited from their stores around the world but that number has grown to around 400. In the next few years, will this grow to 1,000?

“No, no, no, we can’t make that many outfits,” says Gabbana, shaking his head and insisting they will keep the events small and intimate. “We can’t handle it if there’s too many sales and clients with Alta Moda and Sartoria. These are one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s not like a machine and we are not fast at making things like the Chinese!”

This Hong Kong Alta show might herald more such shows in other destinations.

“He’s already saying ‘Oh, why don’t we make a show in April of Alta Moda in London?’” says Gabbana, mock rolling his eyes and shaking his head at Dolce, who is smiling and looking slightly sheepish.

“But the rest of us are saying ‘Wait a minute, we have this Hong Kong show to finish, a men’s ready-to-wear show to do in January, men’s and women’s Altas at the end of January, well as women’s ready to wear – all before April! Just wait a second!’”

There’s nervous laughter around the room, because staff know that freedom means spontaneity and this London idea could all too soon become a reality.