No one does Italian chic like Dolce & Gabbana. For the past 25 years the legendary design duo have explored the style of their home country with such depth, innovation and humour that they’ve almost come to define it.
In fact, it’s hard to think of designers of any nationality that have so single-mindedly dissected, pastiched and reinvented the sartorial mores of a nation. Or have been so successful in doing so. The company’s annual turnover now stands at more than €1 billion, thanks to more than 116 Dolce & Gabbana stores that are dotted in stylish locations around the planet, not to mention diffusion line D&G.
So what’s the secret? To put it simply: sex appeal, combined with a heartfelt devotion to the impeccably chic heroines of Italian cinematic history (particularly Visconti’s girls) and an ongoing obsession with the simple, old-fashioned lifestyle of rural Sicily. Much of Dolce & Gabbana’s work plays flirtatiously with traditional Italian values: Roman Catholic rosary beads become chic necklaces, classic black cocktail dresses are sassed up with sheer lace panels, impeccable black tailoring is worn over bare chests.
Italian movie star Isabella Rosselini summed this up powerfully back in 1995, in the introduction to the brand’s book 10 Years of Dolce & Gabbana, describing her first Dolce piece – a “chaste” white shirt “purposefully cut to make my breasts look as if they would burst out of it.” “It was Domenico [Dolce] and Stefano [Gabbana] underlining and revealing a very Italian way of seduction,” she continues, “the inexplicit message of the women that states, ‘No matter how hard we try, our bodies are so voluptuous they cannot be contained in any clothes.’”
So, pretty racy stuff, then. And a fine demonstration of this kind of innocent come-on came in Dolce & Gabbana’s collection for spring 2011, inspired by the traditional wedding trousseau of a Sicilian bride. The predominantly white silhouettes, some made of homely textiles such as bed linen, towels, and tablecloths, could hardly seem more pure, more simple. But the flirtatious undercurrent is always there, manifest in this collection in the flashes of leopard print, sensual sheer laces and négligé-like hemlines.
Is your Dolce & Gabbana girl this spring a blushing virgin or more “Like a Virgin”?
Stefano Gabbana: More “Like a Virgin”…! Joking aside, our starting point for this collection was the contents of the traditional hope chest, that brides used to receive to take away with them on the day of their wedding… There is definitely an appeal to purity and innocence, because the collection is basically all white. But at the same time it’s still very sensual and ultra-feminine.
Who would be her ideal husband?
Domenico Dolce: A virile, confident man; in other words, the Dolce & Gabbana man, the one we have always designed for..
And what would be your fatherly advice to her before giving her away?
SG: No advice; today’s women know what they want, and they are very strong, at times even more so than men. The extremely feminine image is not an indication of fragility and it does not exclude a determined personality; it’s simply a way of being.
You’ve said this collection is about taking it easy – do you think living has become more complicated since you launched Dolce & Gabbana 25 years ago?
SG: It definitely isn’t like it was 25 years ago; everything happens at a much faster, frenetic pace. There are so many things to do that the time we have at our disposal is never sufficient. Our [designs in the] past few seasons have, therefore, been about relaxing and taking it easy.
DD: This can be seen in the way we present our fashion shows. We are transforming them into personal, almost intimate moments. We want to take all the necessary time to enjoy things.”
With this predominantly white collection do you feel you have wiped the slate clean? What’s next?
SG: Actually, for us the past is very important. The last thing we want to do is forget it. We created the last collections with three themes: Sicily, tailoring and tradition …
DD: As we have often said in these past months, it’s not about nostalgia or about recreating the same things, on the contrary. We have revisited traditions and our heritage with today’s eyes and experience; we worked from our memories and not from the archives, whilst thanks to technology we revisited shapes and materials. But the atmosphere of these collections is reminiscent of our first collections.
Are the simple things in life the best?
SG: It sounds like a cliché, but yes. Ultimately, the things that count are the same for everyone: family, friends, and seeing your work appreciated.
Describe each other in one word.
SG: Wow, that’s difficult … .if I had to pick just one adjective to describe Domenico I would say thoughtful.
DD: … and for Stefano, instinctive.
Photography: Grant Thomas
Fashion: Anthony Unwin
Words: Adam Welch
This Article first appeared in Wonderland #25, February/March 2011