Risotto With a Side of Diamonds

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Above: Karen Elson models a one-of-a-kind gown during the Alta Moda fashion show at the Metropolitan Opera.

If you’ve ever wondered how to use the bathroom in a ball gown, the answer is that you don’t. Or that it takes the help of two other people — a trusted confidante and a friendly bathroom ­attendant — to get the job done. This became apparent on April 8 in the ladies’ room at the Metropolitan Opera House, where a tall Toronto socialite named Sylvia ­Mantella could be found laughing at what the internet might call a “first-world problem.” In addition to the gold crown on her head, she wore a bulbous Dolce & Gabbana gown with animals like leopards hand-painted on it. (Mantella owns an exotic-animal sanctuary in Florida that houses a leopard named Jasmine.) But she wasn’t flustered. This is exactly the sort of folly that she and other Dolce & Gabbana clients travel ­thousands of miles — and pay ­thousands of dollars more — for the thrill of experiencing.

Mantella was just one of 300 or so guests in town for Dolce & Gabbana’s four-day Alta Moda extravaganza, making its New York debut after six years of taking place exclusively in Italy. A series of fashion shows, Alta Moda caters to the brand’s most enthusiastic customers, who throw down their credit cards to buy one-of-a-kind pieces within minutes of seeing them on the runway.

The festivities kicked off on April 6 with an Alta Gioielleria event at the New York Public Library. Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker played host, auctioning off the Dolce & Gabbana fine jewelry pieces on her neck, wrist, and ears — plus the dress off her back to sweeten the deal — for a total of $560,000, all of which was donated to charities of her choosing. Marina Arnott of Newport Beach, the lucky wife of the highest bidder, wore her whole haul to the Met two days later.

According to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, some of their most devoted clients are men. Attendees of the men’s Alta Sartoria show on April 7 at the Rainbow Room confirmed this, with some saying they’d worn Dolce & Gabbana exclusively for 25-plus years.

One man from Hong Kong told me he was the brand’s “biggest customer.” Meanwhile, another from New Delhi said he had purchased “most” of the last collection in Palermo. “I’m not sure if I’m more of a fan of Dolce & Gabbana, or if Dolce & Gabbana is more a fan of me,” he added with a smirk.

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah was also amid the crowd at the Rainbow Room. This was his first time at a couture presentation (“It’s wild,” he said). For the briefest of seconds, he thought the woman in front of him was a Liza Minnelli impersonator, only to realize it was Minnelli herself, there to perform. Her finale was “New York, New York,” which made sense, since this year’s shows had hundreds of looks inspired by such local monuments as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. “These are symbols you can understand all over the world,” said ­Stefano Gabbana.

Back at Lincoln Center on Monday, supermodel Karlie Kloss opened the women’s show in a red number made entirely of feathers, while Naomi Campbell closed in a gown with the city skyline hand-painted on its train.

“Many of us came to America in search of fortune, and we haven’t forgotten it,” said Isabella Rossellini, who’d watched her son, Roberto, walk the Alta Sartoria runway. And now those fortunes were ready to be spent.

Dinner was served on the Metropolitan Opera stage after the show.
Young Dolce & Gabbana fans at the Alta Gioielleria jewelry show at the New York Public Library.
Isabella Rossellini wearing a Dolce & Gabbana “Madama Butterfly” opera coat while seated next to Sylvia Mantella at the Metropolitan Opera.
Guests leaving the library.
Sarah Jessica Parker auctions off the Dolce & Gabbana fine jewelry on her neck, ears, and wrist, as well as the dress off her back.
Domenico Dolce.
Liza Minnelli performs as Pamela Anderson’s son, Brandon Thomas Lee, walks the Alta Sartoria men’s runway at the Rainbow Room.
Models walk the long Alta Moda runway at the Metropolitan Opera.
Marina Arnott of Newport Beach, the lucky wife of the Alta Gioielleria auction winner.
Guests seated front row at the Alta Moda fashion show.
Fireworks following the show at Lincoln Center made for a perfect Instagram backdrop.
Inside Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda Extravaganza