The Dolce & Gabbana brand as we know it today is over thirty years in the making. The very hands-on and creative designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are at the forefront of one of the world’s most iconic brands and have worked closely together for thirty years to make it what it is.
The Italian duo know their brand inside out, and have built an empire from what was a flicker in their imagination when they first met in 1981. The two are the most recognizable duo in fashion and while we are so used to seeing their images and hearing them share their ideas, it’s hard to imagine what their being in their world is really like. Here we talk to Domenico and Stefano on building the incredible partnership they have today as well as getting some insights into the inspiration their latest collection.
In a market where fashion changes so fast, how would you describe the Dolce&Gabbana DNA and codes?
Domenico Dolce: Our DNA is clearly Italian and our roots run deep in Italy. You can only envisage and build a future if you know who you are and where you come from. Italy is not just a deep source of inspiration, but the starting point for all our projects. It also became a symbol in the world, together with Sicily, in particular. Sicily is a beacon of richness in traditions, colors, village parades, and especially the passion that people nurture within themselves. We will never be tired at rivisiting this magical land – nor physically neither in mind.
Stefano Gabbana: People now seek for history, tradition, family – it is not just about fashion and clothing. People pursue realism, a dream everybody can dream about. This we think is a precious opportunity to tell a story about our background, the pleasure to be Italian. Our style codes include embroidery, the black dress, black suits with a corset, among many others.
What is your design aesthetic?
DD: It’s difficult to discuss our own aesthetics. We fancy different styles and shapes, we’re constantly creating and exploring our own creativity as designers. On one hand, we make corsets, little black dresses and knee-length skirts, all very sensual designs. On the other hand, we create masculine mismatched suits and t-shirts. Dolce&Gabbana has always been the result of many inputs blended together.
SG: Exactly. We’ve always been about a mix of elements, all contributing to shape our DNA, as we just said, our story made of love, passion for Italy, fashion, culture, movies and much more. However, the real breakthrough came in 1987 with our “Sicily” collection, that allowed for our strong Italian identity to fully stand out.
Your womenswear collections have been described as a celebration of femininity, what is it like to be a Dolce&Gabbana woman?
DD & SG: We deeply love all the women in the world! Starting from the first ones and the most important of our lives: our mothers.
In your opinion, what is the most flattering silhouette on a woman?
DD: Nothing in particular, simply a garment that makes you feel beautiful and empowered. It could be a sensual dress of course, or a simple masculine suit just as well.
SG: A woman can be extremely sensual just with a white blouse; it’s her personality that makes all the difference. Sensuality is something you are born with, it is not something you learn.
Tell us about how much your brand has evolved over the years?
DD: Our brand has evolved so much in more than 30 years. Travelling and getting in touch with other cultures, people all over world and clients have been very important for our maturity as a label.
SG: By following this path, we are able to transform something that apparently seems strongly enrooted in a given country into something that speaks a universal and cross-functional language. Today, our world is global, and we cannot but think globally. This is the style of Dolce&Gabbana. It speaks of Italy, but in all the languages of the world.
What do you think has been the key to building a strong identity?
DD & SG: To have a story to tell, we suppose. Also, being aware of where we come from: that allows us to keep our values very clear in mind; and these are obviously Italian values. The brand is the representation of the Italian world: this translates into tradition, attention for detail, tailoring, sensuality, but also family and love. Love for the family, for friends and, of course, for beauty.
What’s your secret to longevity in an such an ever-changing industry?
DD & SG: No secrets or magic formulas, we swear! Only a lot of work, and a little luck, as with everything in life.
What do you love most about fashion?
DD: Fashion has always been an important part of my life. My father was a tailor and I grew up in his workshop. Different fabrics, measuring tape and scraps of cloth were my bread and butter. Fashion is my life, my biggest passion.
SG: Fashion defines us, we love fashion as a whole. I think every human being fulfills him or herself by creating something tangible…well, we create clothes and accessories all day long!
When you first met, did you imagine that you would end up creating a successful brand together?
SG: It was 1981 in Milan. I had studied advertisement design but wanted to work in fashion, it was my dream. I had heard that there was a vacancy in Giorgio Correggiari’s design atelier, so I called them.
DD: And I happened to pick up the call, so we arranged a meeting. This is how it all started. And then the big work, the sacrificies, the long summers spent working and working again, and finally the first satisfactions.
What is your creative process like, and what part do you enjoy the most?
DD: First and foremost, it’s important to keep the spark of creativity alive and there are a lot of different ways to do this: by traveling, going to the movies, reading, listening to music, and by being around people. There is no specific recipe for success. It’s not enough to carefully look at the world around you: keeping an open mind is key.
SG: Then, every collection develops as a movie in our imagination; we are the directors of the story, the set, the characters as well as the models and actors. There are days were we happen to work separately, others side by side. Once a week we meet to gather our thoughts on the table. Yes to this, no to that, let’s do it differently…and so on.
How do you balance the duties of design when working as a duo?
DD & SG: We are two faces of the same medal. We complete each other.
SG: We discuss everything! We are very different and we both have very strong characters. Today we have learned that if we believe in one idea we must fight for it.
DD: But in the end, we always meet half way.
What makes the combination of you both a great team?
DD: Stefano and I together are fundamental! After so many years, we know each other very well, yet we still pleasantly surprise one another. For example, I prefer a clean and linear look, even if at times I featured flowers and embroideries, while Stefano has more of a Baroque style.
SG: This is the beauty of working side-by-side and switching roles; always finding a way to surprise each other, letting our mind explore new directions, by growing and learning. Even though we often have very different ideas on a given matter, by speaking we meet a solution that will express both standpoints.
What is your favourite thing about each other? What do you respect most about each other?
SG: Domenico is a genius when it comes to handicraft. Give him a piece of rough cloth and he will turn it into a beautiful garment!
DD: I love Stefano’s authenticity. He is straight-forward and extremely resourceful.
Is working as a pair a good motivation for each of you? Do you think working as a team helps you creating a stronger brand as you have more idea input, and your focus can be broader?
DD: Of course! It is our real strength.
How do you think being so personally visible, connecting yourself so closely to the brand, has shaped your business?
DD & SG: We are what we do, the clothes we create. I think this is also true for all human beings in general. Fashion is our life and for us this is normal. We are the Dolce&Gabbana family, together with the many precious collaborators who work day by day to make it real.
Tell us about your recent Fall 2018 collection, and what it embodies for you.
SG: With our womenswear fall 2018 collection, we wanted to celebrate our own approach to fashion! Our identity is a mix of devotion, sheer creativity, religion, style and irony…
DD: The collection has it all, it’s an interesting play of contrasts. It pays tribute to pop culture icons, but also religion and the world of Catholicism.
What was the inspiration behind it?
DD & SG: We wanted to celebrate our passion for fashion, which is our religion in a way. On the other hand, we wanted to celebrate beauty, the ultimate “artifice” of fashion. Beauty is a miracle, so unique it cannot be reproduced. It is like a taste of Heaven on Earth. Let’s say we try to recreate beauty with our own means, or at least we try!
You chose to open the show presenting bags on drones, tell us about your decision behind this and how you came up with the idea?
DD & SG: Drones are the new angels of technology! Our last runway show was meant as an homage to our love for technology. Drones, there you go!
Is this a way of embracing technology?
DD: Yes it is, of course. We observe reality very carefully and are aware of the importance and influence of technology, web and social media. Social media ultimately allows us to communicate, buy and dream. I am by no means a social media enthusiast, but Stefano says he posts a lot of pictures of me working!
SG: That’s absolutely right! I have an Instagram account and I love sharing photos, thoughts, op-eds or photos of our clients wearing DG clothes! It’s a window to the outside world, to the street…it’s very authentic.
What is your view on the power of accessories?
SG & DD: Accessories are as important as clothes. They finish off a look beautifully, by giving that final touch that makes all the difference. Accessories define us as much as clothes, they tell something about our personality. Seeing a woman dressed elegantly and carrying a gorgeous bag is the utmost definition of beauty for us.
What is your experience with the way social media and digital is shaping the industry?
DD & SG: Fashion industry has of course been affected by the birth and success of social media, but in a completely positive way. Whenever one of our clients halfway around the world posts an Instagram picture of him/her dressed head to toe in D&G, we gain a lot of visibility. It’s a form of advertisement that simply didn’t exist before. Now picture a client that couldn’t reach one of our stores: thanks to the development of the e-commerce, these hindrances can be successfully overcome.
You are reknown for your millennial catwalk, what do you feel this reflects, and what makes it so important for the brand?
SG: We want to get this message across: elegance and style are ageless. Once again, Millennials, these young digital natives who are so passionate about fashion, prove it very clearly. They love to dress elegantly without necessarily denying themselves the pleasure of wearing embellished sneakers or statement prints.
DD: Our starting point is always tradition, wisdom and the craftsmanship we gained through sacrifice. We build on these core principles as we progress into experimenting with new things. Millennials are extremely versatile and brave, they don’t shy away and mix different styles, creating unique outfits. When it comes to targeting new generations, we definitely try to match trend and tradition.
How do you feel about fashion and style in the Middle East?
DD & SG: Middle Eastern women are among the most beautiful women in the whole world. They’re not just beautiful, but also elegant, chic and have a unique presence and sense of style. We’ve been creating Abaya collections for the Middle East market for several years now, and we’re delighted with the result.
Will you be creating further capsule collections for the Middle East market, especially in line with the new Dubai Mall store opening?
DD & SG: Of course. As we said earlier, we really love Middle Eastern women, their refined and poised style…it’s so charming. We are extremely proud of our new opening in the Dubai Mall, the boutique is gorgeous.
Do you feel that creating ranges that are tailor-made to different regions and countries is important for your customers?
DD & SG: It’s very important indeed! Our clients come from all over world and they have different demands and needs depending on their jobs, customs, inclinations and religions as well. Then it is very important to offer a large range of supply.
Which markets do you feel will present the biggest opportunities in the coming years?
DD & SG: Of course the Japanese and the Chinese markets. But the Middle Eastern market is going to grow dramatically, too.
Earlier this year we saw the beautiful Alta Moda show that took place in New York, tell us more about it and why you chose NY?
DD: Because to us New York is the city where dreams come true, and it is giving us the chance to show our customers around the world our vision of Alta Moda even outside of Italy.
SG: New York with its skyline and its energy was definitely the inspiration for our Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria shows. We would like people to see New York through our eyes and unveil all the magic that this city hides.
How would you define luxury and what is the biggest luxury in your lives?
SG & DD: There are no black-and-white answers to this question. Luxury is extremely subjective. What I think is luxury, could very well be ordinary for someone else, and vice versa. As we always say, we think real luxury is the time spent with family and the people you love…that is our most cherished thing.
You’ve accomplished so much over the past 30 years, what has been a standout moment in your career, and your greatest achievement?
SG & DD: There are many moments we remember with great pleasure, many dreams we were able to realize. Of course there was our Alta Moda show on Milan’s Teatro alla Scala’s stage, one of the most important theatres all over the world, and one of the places we love most, too.
Do you have any aspirations / dreams that haven’t yet been realised?
DD & SG: We are lucky, we have already fulfilled many of our dreams, but we can’t stop dreaming! Dreams are the driving force of everything.
What do you expect to be the biggest challenge your brand will face in the coming years?
DD&SG: Every challenge is positive, it means growing and delivering something new. Who knows about the future! We will see.
What would you like your legacy to be?
DD & SG: To be thought of like two creatives proud of their own complete freedom.
Can you share with us your future vision for Dolce&Gabbana?
DD&SG: If we disclosed it to you, it wouldn’t be a surpise!
Your perfect free time is spent how?
DD: With my family
SG: Yes, I agree, spending time with people you love.
One thing you can’t stand?
One thing you’d like to change in yourself ?
DD: My unlimited rigor
SG: Too many things to count!
DD: The pasta alla norma, a typical Mediterranean pasta recipe.
SG: I’m classic, simply pasta!
Favourite season of the year?
SG: Summer, spent at the beach.
DD: Same here.
If you are reading a book, it is?
DD & SG: To this question we feel we must answer together: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi Da Lampedusa.
DD & SG: Same, The Leopard, by art director Luchino Visconti.
If you weren’t a designer you would have been a?
DD: A Tailor
SG: I think, a graphic advertiser.
Stefano please describe Domenico in one word.
Domenico Please describe Stefano in one word.
DD: A tornado of ideas!