Cher, Demi Moore and Anitta Ring In Blockbuster Dolce & Gabbana Fashion Exhibit in Milan

Cher, Demi Moore and Anitta Ring In Blockbuster Dolce & Gabbana Fashion Exhibit in Milan

Italian craftsmanship that rises to the level of art takes the stage at the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) in Milan, where Dolce & Gabbana has brought the best of their haute couture, tailoring and jewelry. From Baroque to Opera and from Domenico Dolce’s absolute devotion to Sicily and Stefano Gabbana’s Milan, there is on display the whole world of the two designers (once a couple in life) in the new exhibition “From the Heart to the Hands: Dolce & Gabbana.” The show just opened in Milan, a world premiere, ahead of touring to museums around the world.

Sponsored by the Municipality of Milan: Culture — and produced by Palazzo Reale and IMG — the exhibit, which can be visited until July 31, is curated by the French fashion historian Florence Müller, who has already curated for Dior (“From Paris to the World”) and Yves Saint Laurent (“Rétrospective”). This new show, which also celebrates the house’s 40th anniversary, traces the creative process of the two designers, from the heart, from where ideas spring, to the hands, through which they take shape.

A journey into the beauty of the handmade, it is also a declaration of love for all of Italy and Milan in particular. Dolce and Gabbana tell THR, jointly, “Initially the exhibition was supposed to open in 2020. Then there was the pandemic, and we had to postpone everything, but we did not give up because it has always been our dream. Over the years, we had a chance to revisit the project; we asked ourselves if it really represented us, if our message went straight to the heart. Only one thing was never questioned, the first stop had to be at Palazzo Reale, the jewel of Milan and the world.”

The invitations for the exhibition depicted a model wearing a dress inspired by the Madonnina del Duomo. “When I arrived from my homeland in Milan, I addressed a prayer to her,” Dolce says, “I asked her not to send me back to Sicily and to let me stay here. And fortunately she listened to me.” Not only did the designer couple choose the fashion capital that hosted their debut and successes for the launch of their first exhibition, but they will also support the restoration of works and rooms in the Royal Palace, including the Throne Room.

In the fashion exhibition ‘Dolce & Gabbana: From the Heart to the Hands’ in Milan

Dolce & Gabbana

The ‘Dolce & Gabbana: From the Heart to the Hands’ fashion exhibition in Milan

Dolce & Gabbana

The exhibition’s story actually begins already outside the Royal Palace, with some digital works created by visual artists, such as Felice Limosani, who provide their interpretation of Dolce & Gabbana’s creations, and then again by Obvious Art, Alberto Maria Colombo, Quayola, Vittorio Bonapace and Catelloo.

In the 10 rooms of the palace’s Piano Nobile, there is one surprise after another. Visitors are welcomed in a room inspired by the splendor of the Venetian Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which houses the most beautiful works by Tintoretto. A large gallery with a mirrored ceiling and chandeliers displays the paintings of Anh Duong, a longtime muse of the designers, framing a group of papier-mâché mannequins wearing dresses made of embroidery and the crystals that are the result of elaborate tailoring techniques.

Designed as a modern hall of mirrors, the next room celebrates historic Venetian glassmakers, such as Barbini and Barovier & Toso, through gowns and capes adorned with handmade glass floral appliqués which, resembling delicate jewels, sparkle in the light of antique chandeliers.

Inside the exhibition ‘Dolce & Gabbana: From the Heart to the Hands’ in Milan

Dolce & Gabbana

Detail shot inside the exhibition ‘Dolce & Gabbana: From the Heart to the Hands’ in Milan

Dolce & Gabbana

A curtain opens and magically you enter the ballroom of Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, then you cross a threshold and enter a sanctum sanctorum of haute couture and exquisite jewelry creations. The ballroom of Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi, in Palermo, where one of the most famous sequences of Visconti’s film was shot, has been meticulously recreated and hosts a magnificent gown inspired by the film. “That film is a fundamental reference for us,” Dolce explains, “it is also emblematic of the opposite dynamics that guide fashion, always torn between the past and future.”

The beating heart of the exhibition is the room that reproduces the tailoring and workshops of the fashion house, where tailors and artisans will work every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. “Today the idea of the atelier, of savoir-faire, is a bit mainstream,” says Dolce, “but we have had an in-house tailor shop from Day 1, like the one where I was born and raised and where I still keep the original mirror from my father’s atelier and the image of a Madonna given to my father by an archbishop.

Lupita Nyong’o at the opening party for Dolce & Gabbana: From the Hearts to the Hands in Milan

Greg Kessler/Kessler Studio/Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

Among Renaissance works of art, colorful tiles, refrigerators and Sicilian carriages, we move on to a tribute to Giacomo Serpotta, master of the Baroque period, with a selection of dresses from the Stucchi Alta Moda Collection and a section dedicated to myth, with Greek gods materializing in the form of dresses from the Alta Moda Collection presented in 2019 in the Valley of the Tempi in Agrigento. In closing, the meticulous reproduction of a theater, a tribute to La Scala in Milan, where the crimson curtain and the tiers of the boxes open onto a scene featuring creations inspired by the designers’ most beloved works.

“When we launched haute couture in 2012, it was an opportunity,” says Gabbana, “to give ourselves the benefit of unlimited creativity.” Not surprisingly, the exhibition looks like a cinematic tour through an opulent universe made of traditions like a Sicilian cart or cassata.

Lily James at the opening of the Dolce & Gabbana 40th Anniversary Celebration at Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy on April 6, 2024.

Greg Kessler/Kessler Studio/Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana

The show is a stunning journey into beauty in all its forms, ranging from music to architecture, from craftsmanship to myth. “We did not want it to be the classic fashion show, full of clothes resting on soulless mannequins,” Dolce and Gabbana together explain. “The dress lives through the person, through their way of being, their instinct. We have a more complex relationship with the dress, we do not see it just as a piece of cloth, but as a real means of self-expression.” 

Numerous celebrities flocked to Milan to pay tribute to the two Italian designers, including Cher, Demi Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Helen Mirren, Theo James, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Lily James, Anitta, Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell, Doyoung, Mun KaYoung, Eva Herzigova, Bianca Balti, Kitty Spencer, Isabeli Fontana, Mariacarla Boscono, Olivia Culpo, Alton Mason, Lucien Laviscount, Yuta Tamamori, Davide Calabria, Theo Hernandez, David Gandy and Adam Senn.

The exhibition, “From the Heart to the Hands: Dolce & Gabbana,” is proof that in fashion, creativity is very important, but it is not everything. It is not enough to have extraordinary ideas, you also need to know how to realize them. Without the hands that give them shape, creativity or being an artist, could not exist. “All Italians are artists,” Dolce concludes, “In every family there is an ancestor who was close to Caravaggio or met Michelangelo, or perhaps sang for Giuseppe Verdi. For Italians, even preparing ragu is an act of artistic expression.”

This story originally ran on THR Roma.

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