Sandro Botticelli’s painting Madonna del Padiglione depicts the Virgin Mary joined by an abundance of angels with perfect Timothée Chalamet hair in a scene that represents the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy: the birth of Christ to the Virgin. Seated in front of this Italian Renaissance master’s work, hanging on the second floor of Milan’s Pinacoteca Ambrosiana museum, is Scott Hershman. His attention is not trained on this 15th-century masterpiece at the moment because he has just spotted a sweatshirt embroidered with a crystal-studded lion he would like to buy. “It’s a piece of art,” he says.
Hershman, a Manhattan-based lawyer, isn’t in Milan to view the very best art the 1400s have to offer, but is seated in the Pinacoteca for a fashion show put on exclusively for the very best global clients of Dolce & Gabbana. Ostensibly he and about 300 other big spenders flew in from all over the world earlier this week for Alta Moda, which includes a men’s fashion spectacle known as Alta Sartoria. But the multiday event also includes an itinerary of elaborate meals, seats at the opera, and finally a glamorous party on Sunday night where clients get to flaunt their new, hot-off-the-runway purchases. Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Sartoria, which the label has been running since 2015, ingeniously convenes top-tier customers around a massive shopping bonanza. It treats the company’s best clients to a weekend of culture and fashion and is a strategy the brand’s designers envision expanding. “I would love to make a show for the normal people, to make an experience,” says designer Stefano Gabbana, in front of a mural of Christ being crowned, in the museum’s lower level just before the start of the Alta Sartoria show. In the meantime, though, this is how the most fabulously rich shop.
This is no ordinary runway show. These are examples of Dolce & Gabbana’s rarest and most lavish pieces—all are one of a kind. There are jackets covered with feathers plucked from multicolored Lady Amherst’s pheasants, coats with lapels made out of mink or dipped in 24-karat gold, and trenches with crisscrossing strips of snakeskin leather. The show represents an opportunity for Gabbana and his business partner, Domenico Dolce, to use the richest of ingredients, knowing they have a clientele that won’t flinch at the price tags. Models walk the gallery floor styled in these and other ornate garments, while Hershman and the other guests sit in rapt attention, compiling their wish lists. Some guests record the entire show on their phones to review later. Others take pictures, which they text to their designated D&G contact to call dibs. The most cunning among them get a preview before the show to lay claim before anyone else can even say buongiorno.
Hershman knows his prize when he sees it on the runway. “Put this aside,” he texts his representative, and sends a photo of the red sweatshirt with brocade fabric, velvet sleeves, and the image of a roaring lion sewn with silver thread—a technique with a name that sounds like a top-shelf pasta shape: canottiglia.
A lunch of veal milanese follows the show at the restaurant inside Dolce & Gabbana’s flagship store, but Hershman stays only briefly before stepping into a rear building where all the Alta Sartoria looks have already been arranged in an opulent salon. “It’s a good thing you told us, because people wanted it,” a Dolce & Gabbana employee tells him of the sweatshirt on his arrival. Tailoring happens instantly, right there in the showroom. The sleeves are shortened; then, since the sweatshirt is a pullover, they discuss adding zippers to the side seams for easier entry, though ultimately Hershman decides against this.
At the same salon the next morning, Gabriel Chiu, a plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills, eyes a feathered jacket, debating whether or not he could wear it to work. “A little flamboyant, even for Beverly Hills,” Chiu says. “But still…”
Burnell Hiestand, a middle-aged man from rural Pennsylvania with sideswept salt-and-pepper hair and broad shoulders, looks on. He’s less interested in feathered jackets than camaraderie. He and Hershman met in 2018 and swear they’re going to get together for golf one day soon. Chiu just invited Hiestand to his Oscars party out in Beverly Hills. “We don’t come here to shop, okay? We can do that anytime,” Hiestand says, referring to himself and his wife. “This is all about the experience.”
Hiestand attends similar events held by other brands, but they are “nothing like this,” he says. Throughout the weekend, the phrase “Dolce & Gabbana family” is used with maximum earnestness. Like: “You get taken into this family,” Hershman says, “which really adds to the excitement of buying their clothes.”
This isn’t all metaphorical mumbo jumbo, either. Two months earlier, at a private lunch held in Domenico Dolce’s apartment in New York, Hershman purchased the jacket he wears today—red Mikado silk, a heavier fabric that’s consequently favored among winter brides, with blooming-rose cutouts. It’s the special kind of piece only D&G family members can get. Hershman voiced his desire for it in New York City, and upon his arrival in Milan this weekend it was delivered to his hotel. And all around the shop that morning, literal members of the Dolce family hang around. Guilherme Siqueira, an Alta Sartoria brand ambassador and Domenico’s slinky bleached-blond boyfriend, chats and sips tea on a leather chair while the designer’s brother, Alfonso, makes the rounds. Like Hershman says, this special access makes buying Dolce & Gabbana’s clothes more exciting.
In addition to the red sweatshirt, Hershman is taking home a green jacket with mink lapels. Hiestand is eyeing a double-breasted jacket in an electric shade of purple. Both men own jackets from reputable suit makers like Ermenegildo Zegna, but they love the craftsmanship and style of their Dolce & Gabbanas. Alta Sartoria is one of the few events in the world where fashion-devout men can find couture creations on the level of what’s been made in womenswear. The clothes are elaborately detailed: the ombré dye of the feathers, the hand-beading used to re-create the paintings hanging on the walls of the Pinacoteca, the embroidery on Hershman’s sweatshirt that’s so intricate even the veins appear on the leaves. I glimpse a paper with prices listed out well into the five figures.
Meanwhile, next door at Dolce & Gabbana’s five-story flagship store, a customer ponders a pair of $300 sunglasses while his family stare blankly at their phones. All are oblivious to the frenzy just behind them, where there are so many eager Alta Sartoria customers shopping that at one point Hershman couldn’t even find an empty dressing room to try on his new clothes.
The weekend’s send-off is a karaoke party held at Metropol, a venue owned by Dolce & Gabbana. The night is an opportunity for clients to cut loose and attempt to sing Adele with the accompaniment of a live band and gyrating backup dancers. Near 1 a.m., metallic stars explode from the ceiling. Waiters flood the room with trays of penne, and golden microphone-shaped trophies are distributed to guests.
Hershman appears onstage, looking triumphant in the red sweatshirt. He bounces around with a group singing—really belting it out—Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”: “You put the light in my life,” he sings. “Oh, you put the spark to the flame!” Earlier that morning, at his fitting, Hershman told me, “Alta Sartoria is more than a piece of clothing—it’s art and life and love.” The clothes, he added, “immediately trigger the memory of these happy times, of happy people, of family, of love of life.” And, perhaps, of karaoke milanese.
Cam Wolf is a GQ staff writer.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2020 issue with the title “The Wildest Shopping Frenzy in Fashion.”
Source : Cam Wolf Link