As the hot, sultry days of summer draw to a close the event season in Venice springs into life. First the Film Festival, the oldest in the world, then the Historic Regatta, a series of traditional rowing races on the Grand Canal, followed swiftly by Venice Glass Week. This year the usual start to the season was pre-empted by Dolce and Gabbana, the Italian fashion label known for vibrant colours, folklore, theatricality and abundant joy. This charming duo took Venice by storm. Four huge international events over the space of one weekend – the last weekend of August and what a spectacle they created……
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are proud of their heritage, Sicilian and Venetian respectively. They frequently look to their home territory for inspiration and creativity. This year they graced Venice with their presence for the launch of their new season collection of ‘Alta Moda’ or ‘haute couture’ clothing for both men and women. Working extensively with Venetian artisans, the collection included fabulous fabrics, shimmering silks, amazing embroidery and every type of luxurious finish. There were sparkling glass beads from Murano, gold and silver woven fabrics, feathers and lace, satin and sparkle, sparkle everywhere.
As the sun went down over St Mark’s a feast for the eyes poured into the piazzetta. The models arrived by gondola, dozens and dozens of them. VIP guests relaxed at small tables, sipping white wine and prosecco. For me this was the grandest spectacle in Italy since the ‘Three Tenors’ performed at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome in 1990. That’s 30 years ago. Now whilst you couldn’t compare Jennifer Hudson’s version of Nessun Dorma with Pavarotti’s magnificence, nevertheless it set the stage for a breath-taking show. For the first time ever the piazzetta was used for a fashion show. Drones hovered in the air recording the event from above, whilst models strutted their stuff on the scarlet carpet of the endless cat walk (or runway if you prefer).
Napoleon declared St Mark’s Square ‘the finest drawing room in Europe‘ on this breezy night in late August, his words rang true as the opulence of the event unfolded. Many of the gowns were a tribute to the city of Venice. The show opened with an incredible Baroque gown with train showing the architecture of St Mark’s Square on the skirt. The detailing was sublime, billowing clouds and even seagulls gliding over the water. There was humour here too, ‘Gabbana’ is not a million miles from ‘gabbiano’ the Italian word for seagull. Perhaps that’s just my British humour popping up there. There’s a serious side to the Dolce & Gabbana event too. Italy needs to recover from the traumas of the pandemic, Venice needs events and spectacle. It’s no coincidence that the Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s most respected newspapers dedicated four pages of the weekend edition to the D&G event in Venice. The global publicity for this event can help to relaunch the luxury goods and tourism sectors in Italy.
There’s a long history of fashion and style in Venice. In the early years of the twentieth century Mariano Fortuny and his French wife Henriette Negrin set up their art and design studio in Venice. Together they developed the iconic Delphos gown. The dress was a simple, figure-hugging silk gown made in a stunning range of vibrant colours. The gown had such an impact on fashion that The Metropolitan Museum in New York hosted a Fortuny Exhibition in 2016 (see photo below). The dress was worn by Peggy Guggenheim, Isadora Duncan, Eleonora Duse, Lauren Bacall and Gloria Vanderbilt. More recently Lady Mary in Downton Abbey appeared in a Delphos gown. You can read the full story here: Venice – Fashion, Fortuny, Silk dresses and Downton Abbey
As we launch into the event season in Venice I’m reminded of the exceptional heritage of this city, marooned between land and sea. A city that has witnessed great victories and shocking disasters. A city that has risen from the ashes of the plague at least three times over the centuries, four if you count the most recent pandemic. Let’s hope that the worst is over and the historic alleys and waterways of this wonderful city can gently resume their daily pattern of life, welcoming visitors and showing us all the resilience and determination of the Venetians.
The following events will be held in Venice in the coming weeks:
- 01-11 Sept – Venice Film Festival – Venice and Film
- 04-12 Sept – Venice Glass Week
- 05 Sept – The Historic Regatta – Regata Storica – more on this coming soon
- For more on ‘La Peggy’ Venice – Peggy Guggenheim, Modern Art on the Grand Canal…
If you fancy a little Italian practise….
Extract from Corriere della Sera newspaper – 30th August 2021:
LUOGHI ED EVENTI
Proprio per valorizzare questo aspetto, la partitura I tesori di Venezia viene rappresentata in ambienti diversi che della storia della città raccolgono i diversi e contrastanti aspetti. Il prologo, con il lancio della collezione Dolce & Gabbana Casa, viene eseguito alla Scuola Grande della Misericordia, sede della Confraternita che nel 1308 fu istituita per dare la dote alle giovani che non potevano permettersela, mentre nello stesso giorno il primo interludio, la presentazione della preziosissima Alta Gioielleria Donna, trova il suo ambiente nei saloni di Palazzo Ducale. Il secondo giorno il primo atto, la sfilata dell’Alta Moda, va in scena nella piazzetta San Marco, luogo in cui i Dogi accoglievano ambasciatori e capi di Stato esteri e che ora vedono arrivare le modelle direttamente dalla laguna a bordo di una gondola. Il secondo interludio apre la terza giornata con la presentazione dell’Alta Gioielleria Uomo nel luogo forse più suggestivo della città, la Scuola Grande di San Rocco, il posto che Tintoretto ha elevato al racconto e alla sintesi del concetto stesso della Bellezza. Il secondo atto, infine, va in scena nella serata del terzo giorno con la sfilata della collezione Alta Sartoria al Ponte dell’Arsenale, luogo simbolo da cui le navi veneziane partirono alla conquista dei territori mediterranei e da dove i mercanti hanno iniziato la loro rotta per raccontare ai mondi lontani le proprie culture e per raccogliere quelle altrui.
- Check out the fabulous D & G web site for Venice: https://venezia2021.dolcegabbana.com/
- With thanks to the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro for his photos of the event. Taken either by the Sindaco himself or a member of his team. @LuigiBrugnaro
31st August, 2021