La célebre Scala de Milán ha sido testigo de toda clase de óperas y espectáculos líricos e incluso en el siglo XIX funcionó como casino, pero nunca había guardado la Alta Costura entre sus muros.
Pero Domenico Dolce y Stefano Gabbana se reunieron con el director general de la institución para consultar si podían reproducir los carteles de la Scala en sus trajes y de paso pidieron algún permiso más…
La colección se dividió en dos partes. La primera inspirada en ballets como Giselle, La Sylphide y El Lago de los Cisnes con románticos vestidos de noche con faldas de bailarina de tul de seda hasta al suelo, talles alto, pantalones skinny, chaquetas cortas con joyas incrustadas y magníficos vestidos de baile de tul decorados con carteles de teatro recreadas en seda bordada.
La segunda parte se compuso de las piezas de sastrería sencillas pero ultra elegantes que la gente viste para asistir a la ópera. Trajes de chaqueta con capa con estampado animal, pantalones ajustados, vestidos de fina lana en negro o carmesí y chaquetas combinadas con amplias faldas.
Los asistentes fueron obsequiados con un libro de fotografías en el que se podía admirar el glamour y la opulencia de las primeras épocas de la Scala. Grace Kelly, Maria Callas y varios aristócratas italianos hacían del vestir un arte. «Si yo fuera el director de un teatro de la ópera de clase mundial, crearía un código de vestimenta«, dijo Gabbana. «La forma de vestir para ir a la ópera y el ballet ahora …¡Van en deportivas! ¿Dónde está el respeto por el arte?»
Cada una de las piezas mostradas es única y se dice que las clientas (120 como única audiencia junto a 40 afortunados periodistas), comenzaban a hacer sus encargos antes insluco de que terminara el desfile.
La Scala, Milan’s world-famous, lavishly pillared, neo-classical, opera house has seen a few key events in its time. The original theatre burned down at the end of the 18th century. Its replacement was heavily bombed during the Second World War. In between, it witnessed the flounces, triumphs and tears of Toscanini, Verdi, Puccini, Nureyev, Callas and also doubled up for much of the 19th century as a casino. Until today however, it had never seen a fashion show.
Perhaps no one had ever dared ask to stage one there. Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce only enquired after they had been summoned to a board meeting presided over by Alexander Pereira, La Scala’s general manager, to discuss whether or not they would be granted permission to reproduce La Scala’s posters on their dresses. Permission granted, they felt sufficiently encouraged to raise the subject of their next Alta Moda (Italy’s equivalent of haute couture) fashion show and its location.
“We couldn’t believe it when Alexander Pereira said yes,” Stefano Gabbana recalls. “We ran out of that meeting with straight faces. Then we opened some champagne.”
These days, in addition to creating stupendous collections, the world’s most prestigious fashion houses have the added challenge of finding ever more memorable locations to show them. Last December, Chanel hosted a fashion show in the lake-side Salzburg mansion that served as the Von Trapp family’s house in the film of The Sound of Music, while Dior commandeered a sumo-wrestling sports arena in Tokyo.
Dolce & Gabbana have themselves previously staged Alta Moda at a former monastery in Sicily, a Venetian Palazzo and a rocky promontory in Capri. For the clients who attend these shows – the world’s richest 0.0001 per cent – the location is as much a part of the experience as the slight tremor that surely even some of them must feel when they tot up the finally tally for all those hand embroidered ball gowns. In purely aesthetic terms, they can comfort themselves: Alta Moda is beautiful and also timeless.
This collection was divided in two parts. The first, inspired directly by the great repertoire of classical ballets from Giselle and La Sylphide to Swan Lake, featured swoonily romantic, tutu-esque evening dresses, with ballerina-length skirts in silk tulle; high-waisted, principal-boy skinny trousers, jewel-encrusted short jackets – and the magnificent floor length tulle ball gowns that were decorated with those theatrical posters – recreated in embroidered silk.
The second part was devoted to the kind of devastatingly simple but elegant tailoring that audiences once wore to the opera and ballet. Slender fitted wool dresses in crimson or black; single breasted jackets with narrow or full skirts and the standout: a leopard-print cape skirt suit. All were worn with high heeled Mary Janes, some with embroidered or jewelled tights.
Did audiences ever look quite that glamorous? It seems they did. The scrap books presented to each guest had photographs of Grace Kelly, Maria Callas and various Italian aristocrats at La Scala’s First Nights, in the days when women could devote hours to their toilette and when going to great lengths over one’s appearance wasn’t seen to be trying too hard. It was also a time when women knew how to dress up without toppling into parody.
Alta Moda’s audiences – in this case around 120 clients and 40 journalists – do not need much prompting when it comes to dressing up. Most arrived attired, as per the invitation’s instructions, mainly in black and white cocktail wear. “If I were director of a world class opera house, I would instill a dress code,” said Gabbana. “The way people dress to go to the opera and ballet now…” he trailed off, but his expression said it all. ‘They’re in trainers! Where is the respect for art?’
The art in this Alta Moda show was the responsibility of Roberto Bolle, La Scala and The English Royal Ballet’s charismatic 40-year-old guest star (and principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre) who choreographed the balletic interludes featuring dances from La Scala’s school. Bolle also selected the crowd pleasing music from Carmen, The Nutcracker and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and lent his impressive body to an Alta Moda embellished red cloak and, later, a torso hugging, jewelled jacket that had been especially made for him by Dolce & Gabbana’s atelier.
Ballet proved an ideal source of ideas for Dolce & Gabbana’s ultra-feminine, opulent aesthetic. Swept back chignons, eyeliner, tiaras and red lips are as much a part of their heritage as they are of a classically trained ballerina. I haven’t seen an audience this enraptured by a show since – actually since the last Alta Moda. That was a sell-out, with clients texting their orders through while the show was still on, in order to ensure they reserved the dresses they want (it’s first come, first served; each dress is a one-off). Despite the uncertain political situation in Russia, a similarly demure stampede appeared to be underway throughout this one.