Dolce And Gabbana Lend A Helping Hand-------
“Giving back” is a charitable principle that fashion designers usually apply to the outside world, rather than others of their kind. But Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are playing fairy godfathers to a platoon of up-and-comers with their latest project, Spiga2. The name refers to the address of their accessories store in Milan, the top floor of which they’ve turned into a bazaar of new-ish design names that they personally curated, mostly by internet, from all over the world (Stefano can’t stop tweeting). Actually, the governing notion was a bottega, a store where everything is thrown together with minimal merchandising and maximal human touch. Spiga2 is a funkfest compared to the high-gloss emporia that rule Milan’s Golden Triangle. There’s a DJ spinning, and tables where you can hang out, log on (free wireless—plus old school reading matter too), or watch the designers’ videos.
The wildly eclectic mix spans the globe, and includes names familiar—Sophie Theallet, Kinder Aggugini, Martin Grant, Peter Jensen, Behnaz Sarafpour—and less so. For instance, Erkan Coruh won the “Who’s On Next?” fashion competition in Italy this year, and Spiga2 is his first distribution anywhere in the world. Domenico and Stefano were so keen to have him on board that they bought his samples.
Many of those who were chosen had the same kind of tale to tell. Brussels-based Marc Philippe Coudeyre launched his business a year ago. His first contact with Dolce and Gabbana was a message that went into his spam folder. He thought it was a joke. So did Gail Sorronda when she got her e-mail. She’s from Brisbane, Australia, and this is her third season. “When it happened, it felt like an out-of-body experience,” she says. “In high school, my mum bought me the ’10 Years of Dolce’ book and I used it as reference.”
“It’s huge,” agrees New Yorker Heather Williams, the only shoe designer in the bunch, who has had her own label for two years, after 11 years doing shoes for the likes of Calvin Klein. “Domenico and Stefano’s attitude is that ‘there’s room for everybody’, and not many people share that mentality. And it’s a nice sign that they didn’t do consignment.” Yep, first time ’round, Dolce and Gabbana asked their picks to select their own favorite pieces from their collections, then bought them, rather the more predictable goods-on-consignment route. That’s the kind of hardcore support that counts for a young business.
It’s not entirely philanthropic: Dolce & Gabbana accessories are subtly incorporated in the product mix. But in the context of notoriously parochial Italy, where fashion from anywhere else takes a backseat, the whole concept has a real kick. And the fashion week mobs who came to browse and stayed to buy were proof that Domenico and Stefano’s vision was paying genu-wine dividends for their proteges.