This, though, was no cursory catwalk quickie. Conceived six years ago and in top-secret production for the past six months, it took place in Sicily over 36 sweltering hours from Sunday evening until the early hours of yesterday morning. Costing certainly several millions to stage, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's first-ever Alta Moda presentation was an elaborate campaign of seduction mounted to woo some of the world's richest women into committing themselves to a collection with which the Italians plan to rival the long-established couture houses of Paris at the apex of fashion. As Stefano Gabbana said before the show: "When we started out 27 years ago, our dream was to become a maison like Chanel, old Chanel. And now, maybe, this dream is coming true."
Three newspapers - The Daily Telegraph , Le Figaro and Corriere della Sera - were invited to cover this ambitious tilt at couture-level greatness, plus the editors from almost every international edition of Vogue . Yet all were only allowed admittance under strict conditions; no tweeting, filming or publication of any but a very few photographs of the show. And no surreptitious snapping of the designers' celebrity guests, including Scarlett Johansson (in a lace sheath as snug as her Avengers leathers) and Stephanie Seymour (cantilevered strapless black-and-white polka-dot dress). The reason, explained Gabbana, "is not because of us, but the customers. They really do not want to see their dresses in a magazine."
Some 80 of these customers-cum-collector women travelled by private jet from Qatar, Russia, China, the US, Germany and Japan to attend. And while a few of them were happy to quantify their couture collections by the metre, most were decidedly not.
By Sunday, when all the guests had arrived via a fleet of black Mercedes to Taormina, Dolce & Gabbana's 35-strong tailoring team were applying the collection's final touches - Venetian material spun from gold, earrings dripping with blossoms and rubies - and it was so hot that two had fainted.
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