Why the Venice Dolce & Gabbana show was a celebrity-soaked prank

Were designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana cheeky – or just oblivious – when they reunited 450 celebrities and couture clients with a large entourage of fluffs and flunkies in Venice last week for Alta Moda, their multi-day extravaganza. couture and rich presentations – people-parties cut back on social media photo ops?

Was it witty, or post-ironic, when they put 18th century style Marie Antoinette wigs and corseted, petticoated ball gowns on the chamber musicians playing in the background?

Or was it worse than just plain cheesy – was it actually causing rage?

Yes, tailoring has always been gloriously exaggerated. But Dolce & Gabbana’s series of shows and parties – a gluttony of glitter and oversized ruffles – landed like a resounding hangover.

Most of us are still dutifully squatting, 18 months after the start of a global pandemic, in this last sleepy week of a real summer, before school resumes and work shifts into high gear. . We watch the news like a horror movie, hands over eyes, as a rampant airlift ends the war in Afghanistan, forest fires engulf acres and spit acrid smoke into the air, Hurricanes flood wherever there is no drought, and the pandemic is raging relentlessly.

Most of us, but not all of us. To paraphrase Nero, a group of the rich and privileged flee to Venice as the world burns down. As the number of COVID rises and our hearts crumble, the displays of the ultra-rich rub against the fact that the rules – especially the COVID rules that we continue to faithfully follow at great emotional cost – do not apply. their. That we little people eat cake indeed.

The lives of the rich and famous were once a harmless escape fantasy. Their private jet getaways, steamy adventures, and teapot-storm scandals have provided us with fodder to consume during times of inactivity stuck at the cash register. We looked at paparazzi shots of the swells as they arrived at their galas and nightclubs to do secret things for the wealthy behind velvet ropes and a row of bouncers. We subsisted on the crumbs of their photos of exotic vacations on private yachts and private planes and private resorts. We passed out at their impeccably tasting compounds in Hyannis Port or Palm Springs; we were delighted to take a peek inside the mega-mansions with rare sports cars and rows of candy-colored Birkins.

But something is wrong with all the excess now. I believe we have been changed, even a little, by the count of pandemic bodies, the earth-shattering social justice movements, the end of the self-first insanity of the Trump era, and most of all by the existential threat of change. climate.

This begs the question: do we really want “influencers” to flaunt their privilege right now?

The most famous quote on the divide between the haves and have-nots is from F. Scott Fitzgerald, taken from a 1925 short story called “The Rich Boy”, which is too often abbreviated. In a fuller form he says, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They own and come early on, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we’re tough and cynical where we’re confident, in a way that unless you’re born rich it’s very hard to understand. Fitzgerald reflects on generational wealth, but what he writes next is why the New Rich should fear that we find them out: “Even when they penetrate deep into our world or sink below us, they think they are always better than us. “

Class division is not new, of course, but it has become a yawning chasm where a few thousand billionaires control 60% of the world’s wealth. (Then there’s this billionaire space race.) This oversight is not beautiful, something Aristotle recognized in the 4th century BC. Rhetoric 2.16: “The character types that come with wealth are obvious to everyone. The rich are arrogant and arrogant – something happens to them as a result of acquiring wealth (because they are so willing to think that they have all the good things…). “

At the start of the pandemic, celebrities, facing backlash, tried to tone down the flash. David Geffen has been blasted for posting about his foreclosure life on his $ 200 million yacht. Kim Kardashian was critical for posting about her 40th birthday party in Tahiti (she flew with 40 close friends; she left with COVID). Most recently, Barack Obama took to the heat for his (shrunken) birthday party at Martha’s Vineyard, where the guest list still included Beyoncé and Jay Z, Springsteen, Chrissy Teigen and the Clooneys.

The fashion industry has been respectfully cautious so far to maintain appearances of restraint. Take Pier Paolo Piccioli’s autumn-winter couture presentation, which also took place in Venice, just a month ago. Made for video consumption, like the responsible pandemic shows, the few customers and guests, all dressed in white, were part of a silent painting, spaced at wide intervals on individual plinths along the perimeter. The serene clothes, the crisp silhouettes in bright colors, offered a high contrast. It was like art. It was art.

As the first major fashion show since March 2020 to bring together large crowds in blatant proximity, Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda events did not look like a ‘return’ to normal. They felt like a blaze among the dying embers of a civilization. As I scrolled through the chaotic photos of the party, something inside me snapped. It was actually the photo of Helen Mirren dancing in an SUV-sized dress with Vin Diesel that pushed me over the edge. They were celebrities I thought were nice and decent, not the easy-to-dismiss Kardashians. Of course, the Calabasas clan sent a contingent to Alta Moda: Kourtney and her new love Travis Barker blatantly kissed on gondolas all week, and mum Kris was sitting alongside alleged fiance Corey Gamble. (The Kardashians apparently don’t hold a grudge: In 2018, Stefano Gabbana posted “Cheapest people in the world” on a fan website.)

Also in attendance were Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Hudson (who sang “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini de Turandot), Sean Combs, Ciara, Meghan Thee Stallion and January Jones. The Canadian contingent included socialites Sylvia Mantella and Suzanne Rogers. Princess Diana’s niece, Kitty Spencer, who is a Dolce & Gabbana ambassador and who married in style this summer in an expansive Dolce & Gabbana wardrobe, was in attendance along with her aristocratic British friend Emma Weymouth, Marquise de Bath.

You might be wondering, as I did, how exactly Dolce & Gabbana recovered from their recent scandals which caused a fleet of stars to shy away from the brand. The celebrity outpouring of love here was remarkable, given the racist, homophobic, and fat-phobic remarks and images associated with the brand. Here’s a quick look at the label’s problematic past.

In 2012, there was the Hotly Denounced Colonial Images Collection, where models wore Blackamoor-style earrings with images of black women in a colonial-era silhouette caricature. Around 2015, the creators told an Italian publication that they opposed the adoption of homosexuals. “The only family is a traditional family,” Dolce said. Regarding IVF, Gabbana remarked, “I am not convinced by those I call chemical children, synthetic children.

In 2017, they created shoes with “I’m slim and gorgeous” written on the side. Later that year, Gabbana posted a hateful message about Selena Gomez on Instagram: “She’s so ugly.”

Then, in 2018, came the great crisis. Dolce & Gabbana canceled a fashion show in Shanghai after outcry over the brand’s promotional image of a Chinese model eating Italian food with chopsticks. Things got worse when the Diet Prada website, an industry watchdog, posted screenshots of Gabbana allegedly using racist language about the Chinese; the label currently has a lawsuit against Diet Prada, who ironically kept the episode in the public eye.

I’m not in favor of a definitive cancellation of culture for brands – or people – who make public missteps. Social media can be a toxic and dangerous stew. Humility, sincere apologies, and the effort to learn and grow, while cliché, is a legitimate way to heal and I respect those who take it seriously. I’m not mad at celebrities for supporting the designers they love – you love you – but I reserve the right to point out the brand’s full story for poise. I also recognize that some people have found joy in attending or witnessing Alta Moda events.

So far, J. Lo is the only celebrity who has taken the social media heat for accepting the brand’s lavish invitation. (I’m guessing the brand has hosted celebrities pretty royally, judging by the photos of the Gritti Palace posted by attendees, including Canadian-born stylist Brad Goreski.) It’s never revealed who gets paid or offered what. to witness these extravagances, but you can safely assume that top celebrities never put their hands in their pockets. Many treated the fashion event as a plump appetizer for the Venice film festival.

There was a certain poetic justice at the end: I was delighted when biblical hailstones the size of Aperol spritz cubes caused the front row to be in their finery. rush to cover the last day of the presentations. Male models continued to walk the runway, persevering like the model code.

So what’s next on the fashion calendar in “getting back” to normal? Buckle up, kids, because the Met Gala returns on September 13th. It will be interesting to see if the elites return to party like in 2019, or if Anna Wintour has taken the real-world temperature, and is moving forward in a more modern and thoughtful way than Dolce & Gabbana did with Alta Moda. Fashion doesn’t have to be accessible, but to be relevant it has to reflect the world we all share.

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