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September 2 2014

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Dolce & Gabbana on Women, Their Legacy, and the Evolution of Their Brand

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dgblogThis is an excerpted portion of an interview that originally appeared on Style.com/Arabia. Read the full interview here.

Seemingly yesterday, this Italian mega brand had a tremendous amount of mainstream appeal, backed by celebrities like Madonna in the nineties for its sultry take on fashion and sensuality. But since 2009, the most famous design duo in the world has been reinventing Dolce & Gabbana as a patrimonial brand, using the classic codes of Italy with full-fledged nods to history, art, and tradition. Upon meeting the designers in Dubai ahead of a private dinner, they asked me where I came from. I responded, “Tunisia, the land of Azzedine Alaïa.” They replied that they look up to this fashion genius. One thought came to mind: If Alaïa did the same job taking inspiration from Tunisia as Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana do from their country, perhaps we would attract more tourists—but that’s another story altogether.

ON THEIR LEGACY AS FASHION DESIGNERS

For people like you who work on the imagining and representation of a culture, what does the Orient evoke for you?

Domenico Dolce: The Orient is one thing, and Dubai is another altogether. Dubai is a metropolis. Today, Europe is seen as the famed grandmother, the oldie, whereas here everything is new. During the Italian Renaissance, architects built Florence, Naples, and Palermo; they invented the Baroque. Here, we are witnessing history: the birth of a new city.

Stefano Gabbana: In 300 years, the Emirates will mark the sign of the times. You see, Sicily is not so far from Arab culture. There are so many things that link us together in food, in taste, in decorum—the feeling between Arabs and Sicilians is actually pretty close. [Between the years 831 and 1072, Sicily was actually an Islamic state referred to as "The Emirate of Sicily," whose capital was Palermo.]

dgblog2

And what about the women of both cultures?

SG: Both represent femininity.

DD: There’s a comparison to be made between the south Italian culture, North African culture, and the culture here—the woman as the maternal mother, the center of the family.

It seems like there are some designers who love women and others who love fashion…

DD: Exactly!

SG: Well, you have some who love women and some who hate them. [laughs]

In many of your previous interviews, you seem preoccupied by the legacy of Dolce & Gabbana. You even mentioned as a joke that when you die, Karl Lagerfeld will come to replace you at the helm.

DD: For sure! He is immortal. [laughs] His spirit still flies over Dubai. [Lagerfeld hosted Chanel's 2015 Cruise show in Dubai two weeks before our interview.] He is a superhero; he has the gift of transformation. Soon he will become a baby all over again…

You create collections like some people tell a story. The last show was even more evident as a fairy tale. We spoke before about how you are particularly aware of your legacy. Now let’s imagine a Dolce & Gabbana museum many years from now. What would be the main stories within it?

DD: Each collection we do is a story.

SG: We cannot design without a story in mind.

DD: As you know, not each story is a good one…

SG: Like cakes! Not all cakes come out good. Some are undercooked, overcooked…some are even burnt.

dgblog3Don’t say that, as now I obviously want to ask you which collection was “burnt” in your eyes.

DD: Oh, we burnt some…

SG: But it’s not negative. Even if things don’t go your way, it is still a positive experience—it teaches you what not to do. Failure is always useful. Thankfully, in thirty years of our career, most of the collections were successful. But we also made errors, errors that we caught afterward.

Let’s go back to this ultimate collection. Which items might we find there?

DD: A guipure [corset], for sure. A low neckline black dress with long sleeves…

SG: The tube dress, the slim-fit skirtsuit in black…

DD: The camisole, always…

SG: A lace dress.

Anything else?

DD: High-waisted briefs and a black bra. They were there from the first collection in 1984 and they never changed. To tell you the truth, when we do a fitting and I see models without a bra, naked with their tiny nude thongs—I hate thongs; they drive me crazy—we have to make them wear the bra, the briefs, and the camisole, and then we can start dressing them. We like dressing women to then undress them.

SG: It is very seductive for a man.

They have to work for it!

DD: Other than the safe of a bank, what’s more exciting for a man than to hear the “click” of a bra opening? Here’s another thing that belongs to the feminine codes that are so fascinating to us and that we don’t want to lose: No matter how the body changes, big or small breasts, what matters is the gesture—it is the most important factor in fashion. You don’t just wear clothes to protect you from the weather or to be “cool” or “trendy.” Cool is a moment—you can be cool from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and then you’re old. Better to be charmante, have charisma…

SG: And style! The garment is your way of manifesting your style. It is a medium—you cannot be the slave of it.

DD: We often talk about it together. The garment needs to be worn in désinvolture, nonchalance, because it should be yours, not because it is cool. But don’t forget that we have thirty years of career behind us. We were maybe “trendy” years ago. I am not even sure…

SG: Now we don’t care about that. It is not that we are avoiding it, but we are not obsessed with trends anymore at all. Novelty is good—it’s new, it’s fresh. But trends? Personally, I don’t care.

Photo: Courtesy Style.com/Arabia

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