Dolce & Gabbana debut Sophia Loren-inspired Alta Artigianalità collections in Italy

The historical centre of Naples was brought to a dramatic standstill last weekend when Sophia Loren was the guest of honour at Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show.

The exclusive four-day Alta Artigianalità event showcased couture for women and men, and high jewellery. Up to 400 VVIP clients enjoyed the hospitality of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana as they paid tribute to the veteran Italian actress and their long-time muse.

The 81-year-old Neapolitan Oscar-winner walked the ancient streets of Via San Gregorio Armeno flanked by the designers, wearing a black evening gown adorned with roses, accessorised by a diamond choker and cascading earrings.

The star of It Started in Naples (1960) sat on a gilded velvet throne as locals chanted "Bellissima Sophia" from crowded balconies and surrounding streets.

The designers paid homage to the movie veteran with a superlative collection of about 100 haute couture looks inspired by her appearances in more than 100 films during a 50-year career.

"There are no supermodels walking in this show," Dolce said backstage before the presentation. "Sophia is the only supermodel we needed here."

Couture screen queen: Dolce & Gabbana debut Sophia Loren-inspired Alta Artigianalità collections in Italy

image: grey bridesmaid dresses

Models dressed and preened for D&G’s women’s couture show in the most dramatic of backstage venues – the baroque San Gregorio Armeno church and monastery. They then awaited their cue to navigate the steep 500 metre catwalk below – a narrow public pathway lined with workshops filled with handcrafted ornaments, religious objects and Neapolitan souvenirs.

"When we found this street with its shops full of artisans, we thought it was just like an Alta Moda atelier," says Dolce.

"They are very gifted and working to precision in such small spaces. We just loved it. This collection is made up of three important elements: this street, this city and Sophia. It simply wouldn’t work anywhere else – we had to be surrounded by the people of Naples, and I knew that staging Alta Moda here would give it a unique energy and the perfect balance."

Seagulls soared overhead as the Neapolitan song O Sole Mio filled the air and D&G’s first models set off along the vertiginous catwalk.

A shimmering Oriental gown, weighted with gold tubular beads swooshed and tinkled on its traverse, followed by the maison’s "new classic" black cocktail dress, with its balconette décolletage.

A billowing tasselled kaftan passed in a blaze of colour, with lemons, chillies, majolica and flowers of the region melding together in a print that was as bold as it was beautiful. Reminiscent of Loren’s many iconic on-screen costumes, hand-painted flowers bloomed on ruffle-fronted ball gowns and 1950s tea dresses styled with silk headscarves.

Glinting ecclesiastical capes were draped over heavily embroidered swing shifts and topped with golden mitres. Polka dots and animal prints accented waist-cinching corsets, while freshwater pearls and precious stones dazzled on velvet bustiers.

The designers debuted distressed denim jeans embellished with tambour beading, teaming them with brocade bolero jackets and T-shirts trimmed in mink. They appeared side by side with gowns bearing vibrant tapestries of the Bay of Naples and sequinned panoramics of an erupting Mount Vesuvius.

Headdresses were wistful, laden with fresh flowers, glossy leaves, bows and feathers – all imperfectly twisted into headbands to romantic effect. "There are a lot of roses in Alta Moda this time – white, yellow, red – all shades," says Dolce. "Cary Grant sent Sophia Loren many different-coloured roses over the years and they, of course, worked together in the movie The Pride and the Passion and Houseboat. So we wanted to open the memory box for Sophia with many aspects of this show, always very delicately, of course."

In a playful nod to another of Naples’ much-loved characters, Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona – who captained Napoli in the 1980s – Dolce and Gabbana sent an embellished satin couture jersey down the ramp alongside a customised football. Another look that prompted applause was a model wearing a sculptural hat topped with a towering baba cake – the traditional Neapolitan dessert of Arabic origin.

Reflecting the proud fishing heritage of Naples, silk skirts were emblazoned with Titian lobsters, and separates were accented with sparkling versions of the city’s proudest culinary invention, from 1889, the Margherita pizza.

"I honestly have no time for what is ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’," says Dolce. "We don’t care at all if we are creating a ‘new shape’ or the ‘new anything’. These pieces are very simply Dolce and Gabbana.

"I strongly believe that sometimes fashion kills fashion – and I will never be obsessed about being the ‘first’ to do anything. I only care about whether I’m enjoying what I’m doing.

"Alta Moda is our passion and this isn’t just a job for me, it’s an evolution. I continue to learn, just like a student. It will forever be a wonderful work in progress."

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