The Genteel
April 17, 2021


Dolce & Gabbana A/W 2013. Source:
Dolce & Gabbana A/W 2013.

Byzantine art and Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, founder of "paparazzi", doodler of "butts and tits", and masterful fuser of fantasy and baroque imagery. It may seem like an odd pairing, but Dolce & Gabbana artfully blended Fellini's chaotic aesthetic with the regimented opulence of the Byzantine era in its A/W 2013 collection. The collection of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana stood out among the masterful couturiers at Milan Fashion Week because they refused to play it safe. The tamest elements strutting down that runway were kitten-heel sling backs and grey tweed ensembles.

Where Fellini and Byzantine art share commonality is in their fundamental extravagance. Dolce & Gabbana were specific in harvesting their inspiration, concentrating mainly on the Byzantine mosaic art of Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale. The duo borrowed images of existing mosaics and laid them onto fabrics that modestly traced the models' statuesque silhouettes. Many of the garments didn't cling to the body and the silhouettes weren't as overtly sexy as we're used to seeing from Dolce & Gabbana. Nevertheless, the collection still brewed with sex appeal. See-through black lace with bandeau bras, peeping black camisole lace trim and short shorts were snuck into the collection, daring to go unnoticed. Most of the looks were paired with kitten heel sling backs, longer skirt lengths, and high-crew neck cuts, making for a more demure look.

I couldn't help but think of the uncanny church fashion scene in Fellini's film Roma - as men and women paraded in front of the Pope in church attire as the MC elaborated on the fabric, texture and their make.

If wearing Dolce & Gabbana doesn't make you feel like royalty, then perhaps wearing a jeweled crown will; golden crowns sophisticatedly paraded down the runway, often accompanied by bulky rosary earrings and crimson lips, while low chignon buns brought the luxurious looks back down to earth. Velvet shoes, intricately crafted with gold vines, soft roses and mosaic detailing,  made for perfectly sinful pleasures.

Byzantine art is easily identifiable because of its opulence - holy figures were crafted out of gold leaf and iridescent jewel tones to illustrate their divinity; the higher one's spiritual rank, the more bling your mosaic received. Although filled with symbolism, there was little room for self-expression as creators had to oblige to the Canon. Red is a prominent colour in Byzantine art; symbolising love, life and passion, it also marks the victory of life over death. So when a sea of cardinal red outfits in heavily textured forms appeared on the runway, it was hard to not to gasp in astonishment.

Contrary to Byzantine art, the Fellini inspiration wasn't trumpeted, but rather faintly trailed throughout the show. It's no secret that Dolce and Gabbana are fans of Fellini's work; just a few months ago, the duo restored his film Satyricon and threw a big screening and soiree in its honour. So when Nino Rota's [a music composer that Fellini worked with closely and admired] orchestral compositions from numerous Fellini films - such as La Strada, Il Bidone and Boccaccio '70 - filled the room, I wasn't completely surprised. The soundtracks were dynamic and playful; a masterful juxtaposition to the over-the-top garments. They were the perfect oppositional companions - softening the reverence of the portrayed divine figures in the mosaic garments, heavy wool greys and somber blacks. But most importantly, these songs created a feeling of a "spectacle" - which Fellini is so well known for.

Dolce & Gabbana A/W 2013.

Although the black capes and their volumous shapes also evoked imagery of religious dress, I couldn't help but think of the uncanny church fashion scene in Fellini's film Roma - as men and women paraded in front of the Pope in church attire as the MC elaborated on the fabric, texture and their make.

The collection's hedonism, hand beading (reminiscent of the labour that goes into mosaic work) and religious imagery made for a bold statement - one, that at first preview felt overpowering, and left me wondering if the fashion world is ready for such a religious close-up. Kudos to Dolce & Gabbana though, for eschewing the expected raunchy glamour and embracing the romanticism of religion and its artistry. 

What truly made Dolce & Gabbana's show dynamic and memorable was the uncanny pairing of religion's sternness, fashion's frivolity, and Fellini's scandalous approach. To take these sacred, holy-charged mosaic images and replicate them onto luxury garments is bold and daring. Forgive them Father, for they have sinned; but what a beautiful sin it is. 



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