Dolce & Gabbana's menswear couture collection is for the audacious dresser
Dolce & Gabbana made history on January 30 by presenting their Alta Moda line inside Milan's La Scala theatre; the first catwalk show to be staged there. The next day, the brand debuted a line, Alta Sartoria, and made a big splash in the small world of menswear couture.
The made-to-measure menswear world is largely a heritage trade (think Savile Row or Neapolitan tailors), so it's usually more sober than its counterpart in womenswear.
But minimal and pared-back are not big parts of Dolce & Gabbana's vocabulary, and they always strive to be different. Alta Sartoria was fittingly presented in one of the many impressive Milanese properties the design duo owns: the chandeliered ballroom of the former Palazzo Labus on 13 Corso Venezia.
The duo described the line as representing "a lifestyle that is deliberately free, ultra-refined and off the beaten track".
This meant a full wardrobe, including extravagant pieces such as a black velvet jacket embroidered with floral patterns in silver thread and sequins, and a red double-breasted woollen coat worn with red vest, black bow tie and fur scarf.
Bright, bold and beautiful, these are assuredly not outfits that will be seeing the inside of a pub. But Alta Sartoria's more low-key attire, like the charcoal grey two-button, two-piece suit, offset with a burgundy baroque-print scarf tucked inside the jacket, was also very chic.
A gorgeous cashmere jacket, deconstructed and partially lined, would make a sublime wardrobe staple. Other pieces were more dramatic, such as a long-tailed morning coat that could really work some heritage magic at gala events.
As with their female counterparts, male couture clients want elegance that withstands trends. For example, a single-button tuxedo with satin shawl lapels, or a double-breasted 2+4 button tuxedo with peaked lapels.
The cut was impeccable. Fitted yet masculine, it was an Italian cut which allowed for movement, the jackets were broad-shouldered and nipped in at the waist, ending just at the top of the thigh.
Since this is Dolce & Gabbana, a brand that always knows what's sexy, there was an obvious celebration of male beauty and the male form.
If it was aristocratic eccentricity Domenici Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were going for, they nailed it. It was a mix of the stiff, proper elegance of the English, the opulent accents of Russian tsars, and effortless bella vita sensuality.
With the men's ready-to-wear market moving towards a more casual, sportswear-tinged aesthetic (barring the resurgence in traditional tailoring), the Italian label set out to bring back bygone eras of bon vivant dandies dressed to the nines.
The sense of freshness about Alta Sartoria is not a result of its novelty. There is increasingly less formality in men's dressing; every man under 45 regularly dons a tuxedo jacket over a grubby white T-shirt, jeans and high-top trainers and calls it an "outfit".
Perhaps Alta Sartoria is tapping into a small but lucrative market of wealthy gentlemen who want to look distinctive, or even eccentric - and sometimes conspicuously so.
Fabrics and workmanship were, of course, the finest. While there was plenty of austere formality, it was the exotic accents which pulled the collection together; for example, huge fur lapels on a coat, or Astrakhan hats which reminded of Russian imperial courts.
Many of our favourite looks included layered, relaxed ensembles such as a ribbed, luxurious cream-knit short robe, worn over a pale linen suit, grey scarf and buttoned-up shirt.
The pyjama-inspired series, in which silky PJs and robes with black piping brought a liquid element to the structure of the suiting, also impressed, while a smoking jacket, with peaked lapels and toggle buttons, managed to turn heads.
This debut was a tight, comprehensive edition of striking and luxurious looks. With older, silver-haired models cast in the runway show, the label is addressing its potential couture clientele head on, oligarchs and all.
The aesthetic statement works for ultra-wealthy men with audacious tastes. After all, it takes confidence to pull off wearing thisamount of gilded floral embroidery on a jacket.