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The Fashion House of Dolce & Gabbana

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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October 13, 2014


Video Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana Youtube Channel
 

A Great Fashion House with a Strong and Sensual Aesthetic

The dynamic Sicilian design duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have dazzled the senses of the masses with their great designs and fashion sense for over two decades. Though they initially had a rocky start their rising star would eventually and suddenly take off with such thrust and momentum filling some with disbelief and bewilderment but many with joy and adulation.

Dolce & Gabbana: Humble Beginnings

Domencio Dolce was born in a small village in Sicily. His father was a tailor and his mother sold fabric and clothing in the local emporium. As a young man he enrolled at the Marangoni Institute for a course in fashion design but dropped out after four months feeling that he already knew what they were teaching.. Stefano Gabbana was born in Milan and studied graphic design. He intended on going into advertising  but realized when he did that his heart was not in it so he looked to fashion for a career.

The two of them first met at a club. Dolce was working as an assistant to designer Giorgio Correggiari at the time. He offered Gabbana some advice on how to land a job where he worked and soon afterwards Gabbana was working on sportswear for Dolce’s employer.

During that time Dolce taught him how to sketch and the basics of tailoring. By 1982, they had both left their former employer and set up a fashion consulting studio.

Their story is not one of immediate success, fame and fortune. It starts out in a one-room loft in Milan around a wobbly wooden table where they sat across from each other sketching designs. In those early days they came across a lot of resistance when looking for freelance work.

Initially, they held fashion shows wherever they could the first one of which was in a small apartment in Milan. Another one was at a fast food restaurant.

The first notable collection they put together called ‘Real Women’ was in October 1985 as part of Milan Fashion Week. It was a shoe string affair.The models were friends helping out. The accessories they wore their own. The stage curtain was actually a bed sheet!

While the press seemed to like it resulting sales were disappointing and Gabbana cancelled the fabric order for their yet to be created second collection. Fortunately, while on vacation Dolce’s family stepped in offering financial support and encouragement which was a good thing because the letter never made it to the supplier and the fabrics they had ordered had been delivered by the time they arrived back home. Not only did the next year see their second collection but they opened their first store as well.

In an interview with Michael Gross in the New York Magazine in 1992 he said that after their third collection they were still relatively not well known. “They were a secret known only to a handful of Italian fashion editors. Their few models changed behind a rickety screen.”

It wasn’t until the fourth collection that the Italian fashion market began to really take notice.

The advertising campaign for this collection was shot in black & white by photographer Fernando Scianna in Sicily. The shots inspired by Italian cinema of the 1940s.

One of their pieces in particular garnered welcome attention and became one of those fashion moments that all designers are hopeful of. It was labeled “The Sicilian Dress” by the fashion press and author Hal Rubenstein picked it out as one of the 100 most important dresses ever designed.

“The Sicilian dress is the essence of Dolce & Gabbana, the brand’s sartorial touchstone. The dress takes its cue from a slip—but it’s a slip that’s adorned Anna Magnani, and it’s a silhouette that has graced Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren… The straps fit tight to the body just as bra straps would; the neckline runs straight across but gets waylaid at least twice, once on each side to caress each breast and in the middle to meet an uplifting tuck that’s giving a gentle push up. The slip doesn’t just slide down, but comes in at the waist to hold the figure firmly but not too tightly and then widens to emphasize the hips, only to fall with a slight taper at the knees to guarantee that the hips will sway when the wearer walks.”
– Hal Rubenstein (2012). 100 Unforgettable Dresses, Harper Collins

A Rocket Ride to Success

Having received favorable press for their fourth Women’s collection their business rapidly expanded with sales reaching the $500 million mark towards the end of the 1990’s.

They launched an ever growing number of lines starting with knitwear in 1987. Other lines included beachwear, leotards, lingerie, underwear and swimming costumes. They also began to design gowns and other more expensive items. The Dolce & Gabbana men’s collection was launched in January of 1990.

They eventually began to make their presence felt overseas by exporting their products and establishing boutiques or showrooms abroad. They opened their first boutique in Japan in 1989 and their first showroom in the United States the following year.

With their 1990 Spring/Summer women’s collection they distinguished themselves from the crowd of other fashion houses by introducing crystal-encrusted clothing. In the Fall/Winter women’s collection of the following year pieces were found adorned by trinkets like filigre medals and embellished corsets. They would also become known for corset dresses, gangster pinstripes, sexy black suits and fancifully printed and embroidered coats.

Dolce & Gabbanna fashion house Golden Sneakers

Their association with Madonna is said to have been their initial foray into international recognition. In particular, the gemstone corset and accompanying jacket she wore to the premiere of Truth or Dare: In Bed with Madonna at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. The relationship continued with them designing over 1500 costumes for the Girlie Show international tour which was in support of her 1992 album Erotica.

In 1992 they launched their perfume called “Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme” to much applause by the Perfume Academy the following year when they received an award for best feminine fragrance. They followed that up with another award by the same academy for their first men’s fragrance as well, “Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme” in 1995.

In 1994, they launched their second main line called D&G. These clothes as well as watches were aimed at a younger crowd. The line was finally discontinued in 2011 in order to strength and energise their other collections.

“Dolce & Gabbana, with their superfeminine and fantastical style, broke away from the serious and sober-minded fashions that dominated during much of the Nineties.”
– Author Nirupama Pundir

In the 2000s, they struck alliances with a number of singers designing their costumes for international tours. These included Beyonce, Whitney Houston and Kylie Minogue.

In April 2009, they launched their make-up range with the help of Scarlett Johansson. Then in late 2011 they launched their first line of fine jewellery that included 80 pieces featuring bejewelled rosaries, charm bracelets and necklaces.

Dolce & Gabbana have made their influence felt well beyond the catwalk. These include outfitting the AC Milan team with on-field attire, designing the Motorola V3i Dolce & Gabbana cellular phone for Motorola and a partnership with Martini to produce a gold edition of its vermouth.

Dolce & Gabbana have been extremely successful in what they set out to do. To make women look “fantastically sexy” creating the best, most flattering clothes and sparkling trends with a sense of style they define as being “sweet and sharp.” They truly are the masters of glamour and glitz.

Dolce & Gabbana Model 2
Image by Juraj Somolányi (Author – Juraj Somolányi, photographer) / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Model:  Zuzana Földesová

References

Dolce & Gabbana, Wikipedia

Hands and Eyes, When Dolce Met Gabbana
The New Yorker (Recommended)

Nirupama Pundir (2007). Fashion Technology: Today And Tomorrow. Mittal Publications. p. 40.
 
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