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Dolce & Gabbana brought back the runway experience to an intimate audience in Milan. Their early return to the real-life format wasn’t borne out of desperation. Rather, it came from a place of philanthropy

“Slowly, we have to start over, totally respecting the safety regulations in force,” Domenico Dolce said. “We are even happier and [more] proud to be here in Humanitas, a truly special place made up of people who give their lives for medical research and study.

We, therefore, renew our support for the research project coordinated by Professor Alberto Mantovani to combat Covid-19.” Dolce & Gabbana was already sponsoring scholarships for students at Humanitas before the pandemic. When it started spreading in China, they made a hefty but undisclosed donation to the hospital’s research program.

As the virus hit Italy, the designers increased their financial support to the hospital, donating all revenue from their “Devotion” bag while setting up a fundraising platform for external donations. The same fund served as the foundation for today’s show, where every production partner and supplier had offered to work for free in aid of the charity.

Dolce & Gabbana is doubling every donation made to Humanitas as result of the show, hoping that its return to the runway – and the optimism it represents – will affect the generosity of donors.

Even streamed through an iPhone screen from the brand’s Instagram account, seeing a runway again felt pretty elating. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the experience was backed up by a trio of tenors serenading the courtyard with Italian evergreens.

But really, the optimism was in the collection, an ode to “a splendid place that Domenico and I fell in love with at first sight,” Stefano Gabbana said, referring to the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, designed by Gio Ponti between 1960 and 1962.

The hotel’s distinct take on modern architecture structured what Gabbana called the “sartorial architecture” of magnified volumes and Mediterranean layering in the collection, which also felt neoclassicist.

Sprawled across those silhouettes were the trademark tile patterns of the Parco dei Principi: azure blue and white mosaics with bursts of gold that transported your imagination straight to the ocean views of Sorrento.

Appropriately for the designers’ first ready-to-wear proposal after the lockdown, the collection was a fresher and hipper take on the opulence that often defines their menswear.

This wasn’t escapism, but a sentiment of hope – backed up by the assurance that preceded the show: “In compliance with Italian law, the highest standards for Covid-19 infection prevention have been implemented during this event.”