To reach the Dolce & Gabbana headquarters, one goes down a ramp with little steps that are just barely there. The space – neither a garage nor a loft – is modern with large glass doors, walls painted white, and a few Baroque details here and there – an object or even a corner with a sofa and two Sicilian chairs. They are unmistakable when they arrive. Domenico Dolce is not very tall, is blond, has a beard, and large, smiling, light-green eyes. He’s wearing a black sweater, khaki pants, and black and khaki lace-up boots. Stefano Gabbana is tall, thin and lanky, and has an earring and short hair. He’s wearing a jean jacket, a striped vest, and a shirt with large checks in red and white. He has black and white thick-soled shoes, a bit like a gangster, a cartoon character, or a distinguished gentleman at the thermal baths….
We stand behind our bras!
What is it like to work together?
D. It has become normal. When we have to work alone, it seems strange. We’ve been working together for eight years, and it’s a reciprocal exchange. We understand one another. We console one another…
Do you each have a speciality?
G. We choose the most important things together – looking at the fabrics, the idea of a collection. But there are things that each of us is better at.
D. I manage the work of the pattern makers. Perhaps because I’m more technical, more experienced with actual sartorial work, but Gabbana understands it all… For the important decisions, it takes both of us.
Do you ever fight?
D&G. Quite often. When we have different ideas, each person wants his to prevail. The most important thing is often the third idea that comes out of the fight.
Are you 50/50 partners?
G. Today, yes. One of us may get tired and then we’ll sell the “&”.
Do you live together?
G. Yes. We share a house here in Milan.
What attracts you to Milan?
G. We love Milan because our work and our lives are in Milan, and here you can do anything. We get crystals in Venice; straw and mosaics in Florence; costume jewellery in Bologna; buttons in Verona and Bergamo; leather in Veneto and Tuscany; and shoes in Sicily.
When you were younger, you drove around Italy in a Renault 5 looking for manufacturers and craftsmen. What about now?
G. We go around less. At one time we would go out to discover. Now they come to us to offer things.
D. The research phase is the most interesting part.
Let’s talk about your fashions.
D. Black is our favourite colour.
G. The pieces that you will see again and again most often in our fashion shows are pant suits, which are absolutely masculine but meant for an androgynous woman, and bras.
Do those things go together?
G. Yes. We like extremely masculine things mixed with extremely feminine things. We want to create an erotic woman.
D. Regardless, they define us as romantics.
G. We are romantic, but in our fashions we go through various phases. The very feminine woman – first very sexy, and then androgynous.
Both Isabella Rossellini and Madonna have walked the runways for you. How are they alike?
D. I find them both to be very Mediterranean. They have very different backgrounds, but there is something alike about them. They are both chameleon-like.
G. For example, there are many women inside of Isabella. The mother, the erotic type, the lover, the bad girl, the bourgeois woman.
D. (He doesn’t agree that she’s bourgeois). She’s a lady.
G. I agree that she’s a lady, but perhaps Madonna is more bourgeois.
G. Yes, she’s more about appearing a certain way. She is a woman who has found success and she wants to maintain that success.
Who are your perfect clients?
D. They aren’t a specific age. A fifty-year-old lady may be younger than a twenty-year-old.
G. There are clothes for everyone in our collection. It’s very wide-ranging.
You have shops in Milan, Singapore, and Tokyo. Are you popular with Asians?
(They laugh). G. No, it was a business move. Now we are opening shops in Zurich, Mexico City, then Paris, Toronto, and New York.
Where in Paris?
Perhaps in Faubourg Saint-Honoré or in Avenue Montaigne.
G. Not yet. Let’s hope we become luxurious.
D. We want to last over time in a certain category.
Are you like Vivienne Westwood?
D&G. No. We are no longer avant-garde. Perhaps “neo-garde”. We reconstruct the past. We are inspired by Yves Saint-Laurent. We like Balenciaga and the eighteenth century. We don’t want the absolute new.
D. Avant-garde is fine up to a certain age. Then you mature, and you need to make something.
What do you know how to make?
D. Perhaps clothes.
For evening? For day? For brides?
G. Even for swimming.
D. We don’t think about the problem of when clothes should be worn. When we design a clothing piece, we want to offer a positive mood. A client called yesterday to tell us that she picks up men when wearing our clothes. When we design, we ask ourselves if that dress will be liked. If it makes someone look like a witch, it’s better to not make it.
What is your perfect woman like?
D. The perfect woman doesn’t exist.
G. We like sensual, sexy, and erotic women with breasts that are slightly sagging. That Italian woman that knows how to scream, laugh, and show her feelings. We don’t like cold women. We don’t like that “executive” type woman. We like freethinking men and women.
D&G. Here are our loves in chronological order: Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren, Madonna, and Isabella Rossellini. But we will have other loves.
G. We like women who are all “breasts, waist, hips.”
D. A nice behind is beautiful, as are hips. Those fragile fake women aren’t our type.
Who are you, Dolce?
D. I really love to do my work. I am happy. I like clothes. I like to cut them, sew them, make them, and put them on a mannequin. This excites me. I don’t like the business part.
Do you like money?
D. I like to have as much as I need. If we had too much money, we wouldn’t know how to spend it.
How do you spend your money?
G. We invest and redo our showrooms.
Do you spend a lot on clothing?
How do you dress?
D. We feel like we dress normally, but some people think we dress like bums.
Do you consider yourself couturiers?
G. No. We do ready-to-wear. The last true tailor was Yves Saint Laurent. In the nineteen-eighties, it became an industry with the image of the designer that emerged. Savoir-faire waned as industry took over. Designers figured out how to create a very successful style. It was fashion that perfectly suited the nineteen-eighties. We lost sight of tradition, but now we are regaining those values and feelings that seemed to have been lost.
How do you see the nineteen-nineties?
D. Positively. People want change and positivity.
Are you happy with the political change in Italy?
D. We need to see what they will do. Change can be dangerous, but sometimes it is necessary.
What are you changing?
G. When we started out, we were against everyone. That idea we had yesterday is now becoming today’s idea. We still stand behind those bras of ours that made people say, “They are pornographic.” In the nineteen-eighties, they said we were too sexy.
Are bras fashion?
D. It’s something classic.
You like the Baroque and Sicily, don’t you?
(Dolce is Sicilian; while Gabbana is from Milan but has roots in Veneto)
G. We are attracted to things that are very rich and very poor.
D. We eat “southern” at home, where I cook Sicilian dishes and dishes from my parents…
G. We have Sicilian puppets, prickly pears, and friends. I am the more Sicilian one, even if I’m not Sicilian.
They say New York is your favourite city?
D&G. It is the essence of the world. Something unto itself where you can find everyone and everything. We go to New York five or six times a year. To the Royalton Hotel designed by Philippe Stark. We don’t love fake antique hotels.
What’s it like to be together all the time?
D. In the beginning it was comforting, and then after a while, you get used to it. You become indispensible to one another.
What strikes you the most?
G. Young people.
What are they like?
D&G. Free and all over the place. They are looking for an identity, and trying to establish themselves. They need positivity, and think they are going to make it sooner or later. We need to keep the faith.
Do you have faith in Milan?
G. Our fashions aren’t Milanese. We sell all over the world. Italy is afraid of what’s new in Italy. There’s a snobbish preference for foreign things that still persists today. They are more daring in the south. In the north, they are daring in Emilia-Romagna.
What about Paris?
D. It’s a city with fashion in its blood. But it’s not erotic.
G. Italy is the country where people dress the best.
But Italians seem very homogenous.
G. That’s not true. You need to get out and about in Milan and look around at the people in Via Torino or in Porta Ticinese. There you will see people that dress with personality.
What is Italian style like?
D. Very simple. Very “Mastroianni” for men. The women are a bit more like “little tarts.” There are well-dressed people, well-dressed youth.
Are you happy to be Italian?
D&G. Yes, by all means! We are Sicilian, and we copied “Sicilians are Sensational” T-shirts that we saw in New York.
What are your hopes?
D&G. To make a fun history, full of images of gorgeous people. Italian histories talk only about horrible things and bad luck. We are like Alice in Wonderland. We aren’t all that serious, and we try to downplay things. There’s no reason to feel sorry for yourself. There’s no time.
G. You cry for five minutes, and then you splash water on your face and move on…
Are you ambitious?
D&G. Yes. We like the glamour of cheerful people. Getting out there in a positive way…
11 July, 1994.