With Alta Moda, Dolce & Gabbana plays the long game in China

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The Grotta dei Cordari is bathed in pink light. In front of its monumental limestone walls, water basins are adorned with roses. Nymphs and scantily-clad men scale the rocks and dance between display cases containing fine, luminous jewelry. Enclosed in a wooden box, an actual Madonna is put in place by porters. Next to her sits her son – yes, Jesus – half-naked.

The religious iconography, the dramatic backdrop, the opulent glamour? It could only be Dolce and Gabbana.

The Italian luxury house pulled out all the stops for the 10th anniversary of Alta Moda, its unique and maximalist showcase designed to highlight exclusive bespoke collections in different Italian locations. This year, 750 customers and publishers from around the world, including Asia and China, were invited to Syracuse and Marzamemi in Sicily to see the brand at its best.

Spread over four days, guests were treated to extravagant and immersive experiences in locations ranging from ports to historic plazas, Greek theaters to quarry caves, all inspired by the region’s myths, culture and costumes.

Dolce & Gabbana presented its jewelry collection at La Grotta dei Cordari. Photo: Courtesy of Dolce and Gabbana

There was a lot to remember. The new Alta Gioielleria jewelry collection, designed by a team of 12 master craftsmen, featured precious stones such as amethysts, tanzanites and diamonds set in gold with ancient drachmas.

The centerpiece didn’t disappoint either: a theatrical procession through Syracuse’s Cathedral Square showcased over 100 feminine looks with all the pomp and magic of Italian opera. Each look was distinctive, a spectacle in its own right, but brought together through traditional Sicilian black and punctuated with colorful references to internal motifs: the oranges and lemons of the Amalfi Coast; agave green.

For day three, Alta Sartoria, visitors were treated to a play about the local legend of a princess and sunken treasure as more than 70 men gaze across the Marzamemi waterfront. The former tuna fishing village has become the backdrop for embroidered velvet dresses, with dazzling jewels reflecting the light like the sea.

The Alta Sartoria collection included references to religion and ancient battle regalia. Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

For a name like Dolce & Gabbana, having fun is big business. The parties were a kaleidoscope of dinner parties and nightclubs, with the likes of Mariah Carey, Monica Belluci, Kris Jenner, Ciara, Helen Mirren and many more hitting the dance floors. Eighteen Chinese personalities attended the exclusive event, including Mortal Kombat and Aquaman actor Ludi Lin. Lin, with 2.5 million Weibo followers, said he was “thrilled to be here, meeting people from all over the world coming together to see the pinnacle of fashion”.

Although the average customer spend remains confidential, it is said to be over $100,000 (RMB 675,000) per person. Alta Moda sales figures are also not disclosed, but by the end of the festivities, more than 75% of the pieces and looks from the couture shows had been purchased. Many purchased pieces were spotted on the dance floor the next evening.

Many couture runway pieces were purchased by customers at the end of the four-day extravaganza. Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

Since 2019, the company has maintained a low-key strategy on the continent to deal with the fallout from its infamous scandal. Despite this, a number of KOLs posted about the event on Weibo: these ranged from @单品毁灭者, with 1.6 million followers; to @thefashionstyle, which has 268,600 followers; down to niche influencers such as @Frigaciak图库, with some 21,500 fans. Some articles on Alta Moda highlighted the celebrities in attendance (like Kris Jenner) rather than the brand itself. In the Xiaohongshu lifestyle market, the hashtag #ThisIsVeryDG (#这很DG) has 634.3k views and mall accounts shared older posts from local ambassadors wearing Dolce & Gabbana, for example singer Karry Wang and actor Dilraba Dilmurat.

Digital meet-and-greets were organized for those unable to attend, and among Chinese guests who came from Shanghai, Beijing, the UK and Australia, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Their feedback indicated that the fit, fit and overall style of the rooms in the house were particularly appreciated. Sicily itself was also a big hit. Unofficially, one guest raved about “loving the events and the Sicilian inspiration of the clothes.” Another commented that “the shows really impressed me. They represent Italy.

Indeed, the Made in Italy philosophy that underpins Dolce & Gabbana seems to convince these HNWIs to remain loyal to the company. As one reveler put it, the “preservation of Italian traditions” and the “efforts to promote Italian design” have not gone unnoticed. However, he added, “Chinese culture and social values ​​must be taken into account. This is the best way to earn reviews and [appeal to] the wider market.

One of the ways the home could connect with home consumers might not be the most obvious. Every Alta Moda party created opportunities to see its homewares – furniture, textiles and porcelain tableware in bright designs like Blu Mediterraneo – in action. Chinese attendees said they “love it”, with one calling it “colorful and cheerful”, yet the line is currently unavailable on the mainland.

The thing about Dolce and Gabbana in China is that despite the perceived massive setback, it has been selling out from the start. The latest figures show that the country represented approximately 12 % of total revenue. While some citizens may still be hesitant, many others buy what the brand makes. Alta Moda provided a little preview.

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