Sensuality and Elegance – these are two words that sum up the designs by Dolce and Gabbana who famously use the female figure as an inspiration for their clothes. Notable for their lines of lingerie, bras, corsets and suspenders, Dolce and Gabbana produce so much more than these by exploring men’s wear, evening, day and even beach wear. Describing their designs as essentially ‘baroque’ in style, they are continuously searching outside the box and ignoring fashion rules which could restrict their creativity.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were first united when they worked together for a Milan based fashion designer. Dolce had been born into the clothes business and worked alongside his father, who was a clothes maker, helping make miniature clothes as samples since the age of six. It was never assumed that he would continue in the footsteps of his father but after a brief stint studying science at university, he followed his heart to art school and before long was packing up his belongings to travel to Milan.
Stefano Gabbana had studied Graphic Design but left before graduating to become an advertising art director. Having developed an insatiable love for fashion at an early age, Gabbana had spent much of his time and money as a young man in the trendiest of shops e.g. Fiorucci, however, he never dreamed that he would become involved in fashion on a deeper level. On meeting Dolce though, when they came to work together, they discovered that they shared many of the same idols and influences.
Both fans of old Italian movies and sharing the same fascination of the Southern Italian actresses whose voluptuous bodies were constrained by tight corsets, stockings and suspenders, they have been quoted as saying that breasts are the point of departure for their design. Celebration and adoration of the female physique was to become their principle influence.
Not long after they had met, in 1981, they formed a partnership and began working as consultants to factories and thread companies. Although being offered very lucrative deals, Dolce and Gabbana decided early on in their partnership to hold onto their autonomy and work independently. After five years of remaining loyal to this and not sacrificing their independence to cash in quickly, Beppe Modenese, founder of fashion week, invited them to show their designs at The New Talents Forum of the Milan collection. The following year, they were presenting their first catwalk show ‘Real Women’. The clothes launched were modeled on female friends and made with borrowed money. They were snapped up by big stores such as Browns and Harvey Nicholls. By the autumn of 1985, the world had taken notice of this independent duo. Their show ‘Transformers’ featuring Velcro used to turn one clothing item into another received huge acclaim allowing them to set up their own showroom in Via Santa Cecillia. This threw them into the big league and before long they had not only expanded on their lines with lingerie, beachwear and menswear but become known as an international designer label.
Having come so far in such a short space of time, the ultimate stamp of approval came when, world famous fashion mogul, Donatella Girombelli, invited Dolce and Gabbana to act as consultants to her Complice line. Predecessors of this role included Gianni Versace and Claude Montana.
Having become kings of high fashion they were also enjoying commercial success, a tricky combination to apply and succeed with. Their more affordable range of clothing, D&G, has been a phenomenal success. It is made up from beachwear, sunglasses and watches. This differs from the luxuriously expensive Dolce and Gabbana line that creates classic and unconventional yet timeless pieces often produced as limited editions.
Having expressed huge admiration for their ‘idol and inspiration’ Madonna, they were excited to be called by her secretary to inquire about a body suit that Madonna had seen in a magazine. A meeting was set up and a delicious relationship between the three blossomed. She describes Dolce and Gabbana as “Sexy with a sense of humor – like me” and commissioned them to design all of the costumes for her Girlie Show tour. In two very short months, they were able to design and put together one thousand five hundred outfits for Madonna and her entire entourage. She has also benefited from this friendship as they asked her to design a range of sunglasses which were released into the shops in May 2010.
Although their relationship with arguably the most successful artists in history will have certainly assisted Dolce and Gabbana in their climb to fame and fortune, they normally try to steer clear of famous faces and models in their campaigns. They prefer to hire young and fresh faced beauties and not use the same faces plastered over every other advertisement.
With over 200 people now working for them and rumors of cosmetic and furbishing lines on everyone’s lips, the opportunities are seemingly endless.