La Dolce & Gabbana vita
The designer pair Dolce & Gabbana is a fascinating Italian success story.
Dolce & Gabbana Photo: Dan Lev, Mario Testeni
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana met in 1980 at a studio in Milan, where they worked together. Two years later, they decided to go on an independent road together and start their own small business. The rest is history. Everything they touched turned to gold. Their talent and diligence made their business an empire, attracting clients such as Madonna, Tina Turner, Isabella Rossellini, Sting, David Bowie and Mick Jagger.
Dolce & Gabbana fashion shows are an attraction and an extraordinary aesthetic experience. During their 24 years of working together, the designer pair managed to grow and evolve from a private collection in their studio in Milan into a fashion empire with an annual turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention a growth trend in terms of number of stores and franchises.
The Dolce & Gabbana fashion statement combines masculinity and femininity, giving radical interpretations to traditional images of female sexuality. Backed by sales promoters such as Madonna, who adores their designs, they succeeded in marketing extravagant collections of bras, corsets and garters, transforming them from hidden items to outer garments worn with masculine-style suits.
Though they make a winning team, Dolce and Gabbana are different in appearance and in their backgrounds. Dolce, who was born in Palermo, is a short and chubby man with pale skin and large blue eyes. Gabbana, who was born in Venice, is tall with a dark complexion. In this sense, they represent both ends of Italian society, the Northerners and the Southerners. Their artistic endeavors as well are wide and varied.
Dolce was born in Sicily on August 13, 1985, to a family of tailors. He has childhood memories in which the family’s atelier was in the center of their daily life. “I loved my father’s atelier very much. My memories go all the way back to the age of three. I remember myself standing many times next to the cutting table and sewing machines.When I grew up, I started drawing fashion figures, sketching cuts, sitting next to the sewing machine and producing items that were ready to be worn,” he says.
In Sicilian patriarchal society, it was traditional that sons would continue in their father’s line of work, even more so in the tailoring business. Dolce’s parents, however, did not push him, so he began to study sciences. He soon became bored and cut his science studies short in order to attend a well-reputed academy for the arts. When he completed his studies, in his early twenties, he moved to Milan to work as an apprentice in the fashion industry.
Gabbana was born in Milan on November 14, 1962. As early as childhood, the fashion business excited him, but he never thought he would go so far in the world of design. “I thought I would run a nice boutique in Milan. When I went too far in my dreams, I imagined a position as an artistic manager for a chain of stores, nothing more. I have loved fashion since I was a child,” Gabbana said in a newspaper interview.
He began studying graphic design at a college in Monza but left his studies for a job as an art director at a large advertising company. During this time he did not, however, abandon his dream of a career in fashion design. He later found a job as a designer and stylist for a fashion manufacturer in Milan.
Dolce and Gabbana first met in 1980 in Milan at the studio where they both worked. Two years later they decided to establish a small business together under the slogan “All the world is D&G,” illustrating their aspirations from the beginning. In 1982 they opened their first fashion design studio, and three years later they were declared the “new talents” of Italian fashion.
In the spring of 1985 they launched their first collection onto the catwalk. They had to borrow money to finance their first fashion show and beg their beautiful friends to walk the runway as models. Since that time, their company has expanded.
They have mounted independent fashion shows, opened stores in the Far East, and the rest is history. Producing a kind of snowball effect, their work aroused enormous interest in Italy, and later on in Europe and the US.
Early on in their relationship they discovered that their connection was fated, and they became a couple in every sense. The synergy between them has led to design ideas that have proven themselves time after time. Despite their different origins, they found that they drew inspiration from the same cultural icons. Even at times when their inspirations stood in contrast, they became complementary. Gabbana was influenced by Italian cinema and its curvaceous female stars such as Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Gina Lollobrigida, with their bodies always in tight and sexy clothing.
They were also inspired by the neo-realism of Italian cinema, led by directors Vittorio de Sica, Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini, as well as the photography of Anccio Saldio and the novellas of Giuseppe Lamprava. All these were an inspiration for the work of the two designers, whose clothes are a symbol of drama and sensuality. They share a love and passion for Mediterranean culture, yet each has his own touch and distinct personal style.
This cooperation has produced the Dolce & Gabbana look, which has undergone some transformations over the years.
The common starting point in their approach to design is their admiration for the female form. Dolce remembers the special suits and dresses the women of Palermo reserved for going to church on Sundays, including his mother’s collection.
She had the unique style of wearing items made of pin-striped fabric.
Over the past decade they have launched their own brand of perfumes. Deviating in some sense from their intense fascination with female fashion, they have also designed clothing for men and children and were involved in designing high-end accessories. They describe themselves as “two Italian men who had seen the world and were moved by it, and allowed it to make them work harder than they ever intended.”
Despite their reputation and their friendship with idols and celebrities, Dolce and Gabbana live a quiet life, away from the spotlight. In 2005 they split up as a couple and are living apart. Despite that fact, they continue to run their successful business and go on the catwalk together at the end of their fashion shows.