Louche and loaded: Dolce & Gabbana's 2016 men's couture collection
Alta Sartoria show in Portofino, Italy, featured lush robes that could pass as eccentric evening wear, floral embroideries, dandified scarves and paintbrush prints
Dolce & Gabbana's haute couture shows in Portofino, Italy, closed with a gold-themed party and a performance from pop star Kylie Minogue. A day earlier, the designers presented only their second men's couture line, Alta Sartoria - showing a playful and sophisticated bespoke wardrobe for peacocks and more traditional gents.
The silky sleepwear first shown in February this year in Milan made such an impression it became a best-seller for the season. "This time," Stefano Gabbana said of their 2016 collection, "we made a lot of bathrobes. Our customers are buying very classic suits, double- or single-breasted as well as some of the more crazy things."
This edition of Alta Sartoria featured lush robes in silk or embroidered velvet with quilted lapels that could be worn as eccentric evening jackets - a look that would fit perfectly with whisky tumbler in one hand and a pair of velvet slippers in the other. Regular clients like Hong Kong's Stephen Hung, whose wife Deborah is a fan of the Alta Moda line, rushed backstage after the show to order some outfits. Since each look is made only once, clients must be quick to secure their favourite looks - it's first come first served. Once one outfit is ordered, it won't be made again for another customer.
The line-up of exquisite, masculine models was as eye-catching as the dandified scarves, bold stripes, vibrant colours, paintbrush prints and full alligator skin outfits. Embroidered dishdashes and thobes were a nod to oil-rich regions with huge couture spending power.
Dolce guys, like so many of the Sicilian locals they take inspiration from, are so confident in their masculinity that they never shy away from a flowery print - and the Alta Sartoria men were no different. Intricate floral embroideries snaked around double-breasted formal suiting in an assortment of tasty hues - some full-blown Liberace, others more subdued.
Gabbana admits that when it comes to men's couture, it's not easy. Traditional Italian tailors like Rubinacci or British tailors on Savile Row usually dominate this niche market. It's hard to compete with hundreds of years of history and craft (especially at this price point) but the flamboyance and irreverence of the design duo are slowly winning over some very wealthy men - usually when they accompany their wives to the brand's Alta Moda shows.
"A man is more suspicious, whereas women are more instinctive. But when he finds something that he likes, he usually stays," Gabbana said.
Despite having so much on their plates with ready-to-wear for women, men and children as well as accessories, swimwear, perfume and make-up lines, the pair's new Alta Sartoria is a collection infused with passion and attention to detail. Gabbana says that the different segments are "all our children. We love our children all the same, we don't have one favourite".
Independence has proved "maybe the most important" factor for the design duo. Dolce & Gabbana has taken great risks, like starting a slew of couture labels in Europe during a time of fiscal uncertainty. Luckily for the label, developing nations are providing a clientele looking for something exclusive and rooted in Italian craftsmanship.
"Freedom is so fantastic, we paid for this, we are very busy, we work hard and we have our hands in every department. Independence has a price, but in the end it's worth it," Gabbana said.
After 30 years in the game, the designers are quick to point that fashion success does not come overnight. With Alta Sartoria only in its second season, the numbers will increase slowly.
"You need to wait," Gabbana says, "we waited many years but it's a good thing because as you grow, your roots become bigger and afterwards your tree is stronger."