Dolce and Gabbana Sartoria, Milan.
As a rule, I’ve always avoided and greatly disliked designer brands as their focus is typically on “fashion”, chasing seasonal trends, using gimmicks and rarely putting their focus on creating products which will stand the test of time in terms of lasting style. My yard stick is my 50 year rule; If I were to wear this in 50 years, whilst it may not be in fashion, would it still be stylish? Would it still turn heads for the right, understated, reasons? (the cut, the cloth, proportions and design).
Until meeting my wife, Mehri, I had assumed Dolce and Gabbana probably fell into the same category as all the other designer brands, but she quickly showed me that what Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana began in 1985 has remained a unique and legitimate label, celebrating la Dolce Vita like no else. They’re as Italian as a clothing company can be (their native Sicily is still the major inspiration in most designs) and their women’s-wear is the most stylish, creative and joyous that I’ve seen. Complex patterns and an explosion of colours are their hallmark, but they always work together superbly that the overall aesthetic is supremely stylish and fun. So in our house, it’s rare that a birthday, Christmas or anniversary goes by that I don’t buy Mehri a new pair of shoes, bag or skirt from Dolce and Gabbana. I also admire the view she shares with me, not caring whether it’s a designer label or not, but is it well made, high quality, stylish and true to your own tastes?
Their menswear (at least in terms of their more formal suiting) is generally more restrained, favouring classic Sicilian understated style; white shirts, dark suiting, slim lapels and ties, whereas their after dark clothing tends to move to a much more sultry mood, with velvet and jacquard-silk smoking jackets in wine reds, deep greens and shades of black.
So when we visited Milan earlier this year for several meetings, I’d wanted to ensure I arranged a meeting at the Dolce and Gabbana Sartoria, opened in the last couple of years at their flagship store, down the road from where Stefano and Domenico live.
The Sartoria (made to measure) and Alta Sartoria (bespoke) are Dolce and Gabbana’s newer additions to their menswear range, giving customers an option to have Dolce and Gabbana make their clothes specifically for them (anything from formal suiting to pajamas).
The Alta Sartoria, on the top floor, is off limits to anyone but customers and has its own private entrance. It’s their most exclusive offering, with suits (3 piece) starting in the mid 6,000Euro range, to 12,000Euro and well above that depending on what a customer would want in their suit (cloth tends to determine the increase in price). It’s a process of working with a single tailor and designer to create something from scratch and the usual 50 hour rule applies (it will take that tailor around 50 hours to make the suit and as many fittings as necessary are taken). For me, I see better value in working with any of the worlds better bespoke tailors (such as Camps de Luca etc), as even the higher end for these tailors will be at the lower end of the Alta Sartoria prices and, whilst I’m sure the Dolce and Gabbana Alta Sartoria suits are very well made and fitted, I can’t imagine Dolce and Gabbana making a better product than other leading tailors. It then comes down more to personal taste; do you feel a real affinity with the Dolce and Gabbana brand and their style? Then it may be the right option for you.
The Sartoria, then, offers something different. Made to measure (3 piece) suiting from 3,250Euro up to 6,000Euro for better cloths, with 2 fittings and most cloths coming from Vitale Barberis Canonico. The pricing is more in line with what you’d expect from a quality made to measure suit and I’d be confident in the quality of anything from Dolce and Gabbana if my past experiences are anything to go by. Additional, shirting starts from 340Euro and they also have 4 styles of made to order (not made to measure) goodyear welted shoes which are made in Florence. Whilst the suiting, being made to measure, will be well fitted for each customer, their house style is true to Dolce and Gabbana’s roots, that being a master garment with slim proportions and a more fitted silhouette.
The setting of the Sartoria is beyond any other tailors atelier, though, and is in line with what consumers have come to expect from a luxury brands’ flagship store. Marble flooring throughout, high ceilings, attentive staff. The combination of tailors atelier and luxury flagship does make it a unique proposition.
Disappointingly, we weren’t able to see any of the tailors at work, or even the cutting room itself as the Dolce and Gabbana PR team don’t want that being seen by anyone, for reasons known only to themselves. Again, very disappointing as it should be something which the brand celebrates, rather than hides. Additionally, it means that I can’t comment first hand on the legitimacy of any of the manufacturing. Dolce and Gabbana are one of the remaining luxury brands to still produce in Italy (many other brands offshore to China, thought they’ll do everything they can to hide the fact) but Dolce and Gabbana has resolutely remained “Made in Italy”. But without being able to see any of this for myself in regards to the Sartoria, I simply can’t comment. It’s a shame, as I know the team in Milan’s Dolce and Gabbana had read my previous articles, all of which place a premium of focus on seeing the engine room of any tailor or manufacturer, rather than relying solely on the glossy front end. Additionally, Dolce and Gabbana’s PR team won’t release even their own images of the cutting rooms, so I’ve no way to tell how or where the process takes place. I appreciate any brand who wishes to control their public image, but if your promoting this line (Sartoria and Alta Sartoria) then you need to have images which can be used to provide legitimacy to the story. Contrast that to any quality bespoke tailor; if you asked to see their cutting room, most would be glad you have an interest and willingly invite you in to see their suits being made. For a tailor to do this is a way of showing both their pride and authenticity, that they’re not all smoke and mirrors. Sadly that opportunity has been lost in this instance.
For anyone visiting Milan, I’d still encourage a visit to their flagship store (or any store, for that matter, even if only to learn from Stefano and Domenico’s ability to make bright colours and complex patterns work so well together) and if you have a genuine appreciation for the Dolce and Gabbana aesthetic, then their Sartoria and Alta Sartoria could be worth considering. I’ll still be buying Mehri whatever I can from Dolce and Gabbana, whenever the opportunity or occasion presents itself, but for my mind, given the closed off nature to showing any of the making process, I remain in favour of the value and transparency found in most of the privately owned bespoke tailors whom I’ve come to know around the world.