Dolce and Gabbana Stay True To Italian Roots
Wherever you stand on the remarkable sartorial run that Stefano Gabbana and Dominico Dolce embarked on some 33 years ago, it’s impossible to dismiss the generational impact the Milanese fashion house that bears their names has had.
It’s been three decades of Italian opulence, of tailoring, of family, of brash prints and masculine silhouettes.
Ask Dolce and Gabbana – and ask them in any which way you desire – and they’ll pull everything back to love. Well, not love, but amore: the Italian, of course, being a purer, deeper love, and one less encumbered by shallow notions of commerciality.
“Even with this digital era, at the end of the day, people need just one word: love. But not love in inglese – amore, in italiano,” says Dominico Dolce. “Amore, in Italian culture, if you speak this word, it’s very complicated. It’s not easy.”
You want to believe it’s cheesy. You want to be cynical and moody. But a single look in the eyes of Stefano and Dominico, and there’s no question of sincerity.
In an interview seven years ago, you discussed how the internet was changing fashion. How do you feel about it now?
Stefano Gabbana: It changed fashion, in the sense of communication. It was a big revolution about communication. But fashion isn’t changed by the internet. It’s changed by the designers.
Was that a difficult transition for the brand?
SG: It’s made things easier to explain. It’s easier to say what we think, direct to the customer.
Dominico Dolce: It used to be super complicated with fashion magazines. It’s a big revolution. The internet world is a little in chaos – a little confused. When it started, it was clean.
SG: The beginning was exciting, now it’s too busy. Now it’s too much.
There’s a wonderful tension in the fashion world right now – the eternal tension – between tradition and newness. How do you toe the line as a brand with such heritage and tradition?
SG: If you love your roots, you don’t make any compromise. I was born in ‘84, but I live today. The roots and the new live together. It’s not a compromise, it’s survival. You need to believe in the two things at the same time. It’s spontaneous.
DD: Older people talk about the young generation: that they’re a disaster, they’re stupid – they say they don’t need love, they don’t want love, they don’t need passion. But these people believe in love. We are like the parents, the uncle, the big brother. We teach beauty.
SG: Fashion is not money. Fashion is creativity, it’s a love, it’s expression. It’s not business. You can make business with fashion, for sure, but it’s not the first point of importance.
DD: Fashion is an expression of life.
And do you think some brands have lost that?
DD: Don’t get us wrong, we’re not stupid. Dolce & Gabbana is our money. In any which way, we started with zero lira. No lira from the bank, nobody.
SG: But for me, the most important thing, if you want to be a designer, is that you have a story to tell. It’s not important, the fashion. It’s not important, the bag. It’s not important, the shoes. What you feel is important. You take your feelings and you translate them into a dress.
What are the risks for your brand in 2018?
SG: The unique risk is that I could lose my mind. That’s the only risk. I’m not afraid. The unique fear for me, personally, is that I get sick. The other things are stupid things – you can resolve everything.
DD: We are so lucky. Firstly, because we’re two. We make fun of our mistakes. We say, “It’s just clothes – relax.”
SG: We are lucky to have a beautiful job.
What do you think about influencers? Some brands embrace them, others say it’s inauthentic.
DD: It depends. When it started, we were the first to work with them. Now, there are too many ‘influencers’ – we don’t understand it. 2 million followers, 1 million followers – we see this and we ask, “Who? Who are they?”
SG: It’s become like a gossip magazine. There are big followings because people are curious. We have a personal relationship with some of them, but not like before. It’s not the moment anymore. I don’t know what is the next step, but for sure it’s not influencers. It’s too commercial, too crowded, too fake. There are too many fake influencers. They’ve become too cheap.
What is exciting you about menswear, right now?
DD: Menswear is in the most incredible time. This is the new generation. Women are dressing in a more global way. Men are dressing differently, depending on their age, their culture, their jobs. Men are more complicated. You have the clothes for the morning, for breakfast, for evening, for lunch, for going to the country, for going to the desert. I love wearing my robe in the morning – it’s just for myself, not for other people. I make my coffee. It’s all for myself. It’s about respecting yourself.
So menswear is becoming more about individuality?
DD: It’s more local, more about their experiences, their social lives. The incredible story is the new generation, the digital generation. We think, when we work with these people – these people love casual and sportswear.
SG: But when they come, and we ask, “What would you like to wear to the show?” they say, “Suits.”
DD: But not grey, not navy.
No, they want the hero velvet suit.
DD: They want brocade. They want to wear it with a sneaker, with a boot.
SG: They want a military jacket.
Do you think masculinity is changing, too?
SG: Masculinity has been changing for the past 10 years. It’s more free. With fashion, men are not afraid like before. Before, they were afraid of prejudice. Now, there’s more confidence.
Okay, so in the modern era, what are the pieces you think every man needs in his wardrobe?
SG: Black suit. White shirt. Black babouche. White underwear.
DD: I love a black tuxedo. One special blazer. A white shirt.
What about sneakers?
SG: For me, sneakers are the new denim. Denim is done – that big era. In the digital era, it’s the sneaker. We talk about shoes with 18, 20-year-olds, and shoes for those people are sneakers.
What is the future of tailoring?
DD: Today, grey and blue are Wall Street suits. They’re finished. The people want a beautiful fit, and they want something unique.
SG: Today’s man wants, obviously, to be beautiful. They care about the cut, the fit.
You’ve talked about the new confidence in menswear – what are the things you think men need to focus on to feel confident in what they wear?
SG: Young or not young, everyone, when they dress, wants to feel sexy. The suit, in the ‘80s and 90’s, it was one suit for everything: for work, for the night. Today, the young generation want a suit that’s super perfect – because they want to be beautiful. A super fit, with a beautiful fabric – brocade, embroidered, unique. This is the trick, this is the way. The cut is the most important – the shape.
DD: All the people love the fitted suit. Some people talk about oversized – oversized is fashion.
SG: But fashion is one week, one day. Sure, I want to be crazy and mad for one night. But the rest of my life, I want to be beautiful.
Are there any trends that you don’t like, right now?
SG: I have a lot of designers I don't like, but I can’t tell you. I would love to say the name – you’d understand better. But fashion is beautiful because it’s free. There’s space for everyone.
Your first collection was 33 years ago. How do you maintain passion and enthusiasm, season after season, year after year?
SG: We love life. We are lucky, positive men.
You don’t feel lazy sometimes?
SG: Obviously. We are human!
How do you protect yourself from complacency?
DD: The comparison is like being a mother or a father. You love your children every day. You don’t love them one day, and then after 20 years, “Shut up – I don’t want to see you!”
SG: We’re not the same as we were 33 years ago. But we are in one sense, the same.
You talk about the freedom the brand has in communicating straight to the customer – but it means that people can react to things quickly. How does that make you feel?
SG: If you like it, okay, if you don’t like it, I don’t mind.
DD: It’s impossible to have everybody love you.
SG: We’re not dictators. I love freedom.
Do you still feel like you can be truly irreverent?
DD: We are free to express ourselves.
SG: Maybe we’ll make mistakes. But we are free.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.