Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce’s devotion to La Dolce Vita takes myriad forms. From shows in fantastical bel paese locations to high-fashion catwalk homages to the Sicilian famiglia, and all the black lace and '50s pinstripes that these entail. But for the house’s first show in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, patriotism towards their native Italy took a more nuanced approach.
“La Dolce Vita has become a deeper concept than just living the high life, it means caring about the future of our country and each other,” said Domenico Dolce of the pair’s decision to stage the men’s spring/summer 2021 show in the grounds of the Humanitas Hospital University Campus, 45 minutes outside Milan.
The medical institution is at the forefront of research to find a vaccine, and as the crisis hit Milan and Bergamo particularly hard in March, the designers made a sizeable donation to the University. Their involvement is longstanding - the pair already fund scholarships for medical students here.
To stage the event - with a reduced audience of 260 compared to the usual 800 plus, and social distancing and mandatory masks - a host of creatives offered their services pro bono, from the music to the catering and models. “It was important to send a message of positivity for the future,” said Stefano Gabbana.
The crammed benches and gilt of the Milan Metropol theatre, where Dolce & Gabbana shows are usually staged, were swapped for spaced seating, brutalist minimalism and an introduction by junior doctors, in lieu of the soundtrack of camera shutters snapping Instagram stars.
The idea for the collection came during last summer, when the designers took a trip to the Gio Ponti-designed Parco dei Principi Hotel in Sorrento, with its cooling blue and white ceramic tiles created by the 1960s Italian design titan.
Those mosaic patterns in Gulf of Naples azure tones were applied to breezy holiday staples: pristine white-cotton tunics and cropped trousers trimmed in blue embroidery, tile-patterned silk pyjama tops and trousers, and rustic frayed linens.
Alongside the summery pieces, the Dolce & Gabbana artisans debuted some of their most experimental silhouettes to date, splicing contrasting panels onto the torso of suits, or applying knitted sections to the backs and double layers of collars. The world has been turned upside down, so why not turn tailoring on its head?
We’ve all been longing for a post-lockdown holiday this summer - Dolce & Gabbana’s couture clients have been in touch over the summer dreaming of an escape to Italy - but the idyll of a sojourn in the Bay of Naples took on greater resonance as lockdown set in and the country’s tourism industry was decimated.
“It felt important to tell the story of a special location, when we’re unable to visit the places we love,” said Dolce. At a time when fashion brands are presenting their collections digitally, via web links and stop-start WiFi connections, the pair felt that their grand-scale showmanship had to be experienced in person, in a location integral to the fight against Covid.
“You can’t taste a spaghetti pomodoro by looking at pictures,” said Dolce. “It’s the same with our collection; you need the atmosphere.” After months of uncertainty, it was a delight to experience the distinct flavour of Dolce & Gabbana once again.
Read more from Milan: No air kissing or jostling: inside the world’s first socially distanced fashion show
Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion.