Dolce & Gabbana Still Believes in the Power of Fantasy

dolce gabbana runway
Dolce & Gabbana Still Believes in FantasyPhoto: Isidore Montag /

“The beauty is the most important thing—I want to be surrounded by beauty at every moment. Beauty is a pillar of a brand,” explained Domenico Dolce, one half of Dolce & Gabbana, his business partner Stefano Gabbana sitting beside him against the backdrop of the hazy Sardinian sun.

Since 2012, the duo has staged elaborate Alta Moda showcases that celebrate Italian craftsmanship and the diversity of culture throughout the country. Sardinia, off the western coast, was chosen for this year’s affair for its richness in folkloric traditions and dedication to emblematic crafts. The programming of events, however—which took place over five nights and brought together press, celebrities, and treasured VIP clientele—was anything but a simplistic display of the house’s couture collections. Award show–style performances, 20-minute runway prologues, and branded vacation resorts show that Dolce does understand—and perhaps always has understood—the importance of fashion as entertainment.

a person in a yellow dress
Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

Glamour reigned supreme at Alta Moda 2024, with Dolce & Gabbana taking over the comune of Pula, southwest of the island’s capital, Cagliari. The little town has cultural cachet thanks to both its reputation as a vacation hot spot and its archaeological richness. The ancient ruins of Nora, now mostly submerged beneath the sea, acted as the venue for the main show.

“It’s full of history and full of civilization,” Dolce told me of the coastal village. To bridge the gaps between the ancient and modern worlds, the brand enlisted Phillip K. Smith III to create abstract, mirrored sculptures that reflected the history of the site after Dolce ran into the artist’s work online.

jewelry display
Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

So how did it all culminate in the clothing, you may ask? After a decadent high-jewelry presentation on Monday night—which highlighted the fine gold thread handwoven into necklaces and earrings, transmuted to mimic lace, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in Sardinia—came the Alta Moda fashion show the next evening. Highly inspired by the ’60s, the collection was rooted in a core silhouette: pleated column gowns presented in ebony, cut close to the body and adorned with gold filigree, by way of belts, corsets, bras, exaggeratedly large earrings, and lashings of bejeweled necklaces reminiscent of Byzantine adornments that furthered the theme of antiquity. Weaving—one of Sardinia’s most beloved pastimes and famous exports—came through by way of the cotton and wool textiles. (Both are still produced on the loom in the region.) Ivory cotton shirting was showcased on the floor. The majestic capes—meticulously handmade from tubular weavings of linen, wool, and jacquard silk—felt like a jubilant return to what Dolce & Gabbana does best: Italian majesty steeped in bygone baroque glamour.

a person in a dress
Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

“It’s not easy to make a dress,” Dolce commented. “People think it is, because everything is so accessible nowadays, but you really have to research. Websites and social media make everything go so fast.” But the brand didn’t forget about the social media set: A petite Christina Aguilera took to the stage for the opening celebration, in a custom pink Dolce & Gabbana silk corset complete with a feather boa. Katy Perry closed out the week’s performances. Drag superstars Violet Chachki and Trixie Mattel and pianist Micah McLaurin all put in equally dazzling performances, and the likes of Naomi Campbell, Halle Bailey, Maluma, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Alessandra Ambrosio piled on the star power. It was part dolce vita, part popular culture, and part ode to the past—and it delighted the 500-strong crowd on site, and made a defiant statement about how the brand intends to move forward.

Quietly celebrating its 40th year in business, the house’s founders made it clear they aren’t interested in looking back: “We are only interested in today and tomorrow.”

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