Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Dolce and Gabbana on Asia as the future, and Beijing’s ‘most beautiful men’

After their groundbreaking Alta Moda show in Hong Kong, the Italian fashion legends paraded exclusive women’s and men’s collections for their rich clients in Beijing, and say they just can't get enough of Asia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 5:35pm

China’s wealthy followers of fashion love Dolce & Gabbana, and for Italian legends Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the feeling is mutual.

“We have a very good feeling in our conversations with the Chinese customers when they come to Italy,” says Dolce of the Chinese clientele who fly in for the brand’s biannual Alta shows. “When you have good feelings, you love to share more, so here we are.”

Following Alta shows in Hong Kong and Tokyo, Dolce and Gabbana were in Beijing to present their “Ode to China” Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria (their version of women’s and men’s couture lines) collection.

“It’s our love for Asia,” says Gabbana at The Peninsula in Beijing, where fans including actress Zhang Ziyi and jewellery designer Bao Bao Wan watched as more than 100 outfits were paraded. “We started with doing the Alta shows in Hong Kong in December, the first time outside of Italy, and then decided to explore more cities.”

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Inspired by their dream of China and Beijing, last week’s one-off collection featured shimmering gold appliqués and sequins, feminine fluted skirts and sleeves, and the famous Dolce & Gabbana hourglass figures in flattering blacks, reds and vibrant florals. One model wore a huge ballroom skirt adorned with thousands of hand-applied, multicoloured feathers, another a bloom of red and fuchsia flowers winding around a black ball gown.

The male models sported suits and tuxedos, some with stylised, hand-painted roosters (a nod to the Chinese zodiac) or in velvet with brilliant gemstone patterns. They showed off physiques in sharp, fitted tailored pants and billowing silky shirts. Playful pyjama pieces and robes in 1930s-inspired abstract prints also caught the eyes of male fans.

Post-show, the gregarious design duo take time to speak to each of their dinner guests and it’s such personal touches that make their clients so loyal.

While Dior might have just done a couture show in Japan and Armani has shown couture in China, these will be largely recycled outfits from their Paris runways. Valentino did do a one-off, red-themed, Shanghai-only collection in 2013 for their flagship store opening but by bringing unique “dedicated” collections to the doorstep of their fast-growing club of Asian clientele – not the done thing in Europe – Dolce and Gabbana have broken the mould. And judging by the increasing number of buyers of ultra-expensive Alta outfits, it’s working.

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As many luxury brands scale back on catwalk shows, there’s a confidence within the company that bucks the trend of industry uncertainty.

“First of all we are independent and we decide by ourselves what we want to do. That kind of freedom is the best and most important thing and we have a lot of incredible staff, we are a huge company that’s why we can achieve all these shows,” Gabbana says.“Secondly, Domenico has fallen in love with Asia, and he just keeps wanting to come back.”

Dolce adds: “This isn’t just a profession, this is our love – it has no limit. It’s not work, it’s an expression of our life,” adds Dolce.

From social dinners, wild parties and plenty of face time, the designers manage a rare intimacy in a world of superficial social media connections.

“At these intimate Alta shows,” says Gabbana, “it’s not just things for sale. Of course we sell things, we’re not stupid, but we don’t come here just for money. Our approach is different. I would love the Chinese to understand more about us. We’re not just a name, or a label, we are two men.”

The designers, now both in their 50s and having worked together for 31 years, are learning, too.

“After these trips and collections we understand Asia more, and the differences between Hong Kong, China and Japan in terms of cultures, people, food, the approach to life … and since we’re designers, even the proportions of the body. You need to respect each country or place,” Gabbana says. “We need to learn. And if we don’t come here, we don’t learn.”

The travel makes life enriching too, Dolce says.

“We discovered the most beautiful men in Beijing,” he says about the male models. “So elegant, their great skin and incredible bodies – for a designer it’s a dream. In this moment, for me, Asian beauty is really the top.

“We think that the future is here in Asia. We just have confidence about the place.”