Domenico Dolce was born in 1958 near Palermo, Sicily and Stefano Gabbana was born in 1962 in Milan. Dolce studied fashion design and worked at his family’s small clothing factory whilst Gabbana was a graphic designer. Whist they were both working as assistants at an atelier in Milan they became a couple and began freelance designing together in 1982. It was the country of Sicily that brought the two together, as Dolce’s birthplace and Gabbana’s childhood holiday destination it has provided inspiration for their creative aesthetic ever since. Although they ceased being a couple in 2005 they carried on the business as friends. Signature pieces include the Guêpière or bustier dresses, corsetry, pinstripes and ‘Sicilian temptress’ attire complete with plentiful black lace.
Early Dolce & Gabbana designs mostly comprised of unstructured clothing secured with a complicated system of fastenings. Inspirational figures for their early collections included Italian actresses Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. Originally inspired by a bohemian thrift shop aesthetic, Dolce & Gabbana’s trademark deeply coloured animal prints have led to their designs being described as ‘haute hippydom’. The pair is more concerned in making the most flattering clothes rather than sparking trends, once admitting they wouldn’t mind if their only contribution to history was a black bra.
Quickly gaining a reputation as self-styled Italian exhibitionists, Dolce & Gabbana have successfully pillaged their shared heritage to create a strong signature look. New manifestations of kohl eyed ‘molto sexy widows’ are reinvented and reincarnated season after season, clad in leopard print bodies or a slinky black corseted sheath dress. With trademarks such as underwear-as-outerwear including corsetry and visible bra fastenings, Sicilian mobster boss pinstripe suits and fancifully printed and embroidered Dolce & Gabbana coats, the duo made women look simply and devastatingly sexy. This, mixed with the wit and self-awareness endemic in their designs, has gained Dolce & Gabbana many celebrity fans including Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Naomi Campbell, Isabella Rossellini, Monica Bellucci, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman. They have successfully harnessed the power of an illustrious front row, the glamorous super sexy ad campaign and photographic celebrity patrons to their full advantage.
Loved by fashion editorials and film stars alike, the label revived the Italian sex-bomb look featured in films of their childhood from Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, and Federico Fellini. The pair is also to be credited in some part for the way women in the 1980s empowered themselves by reclaiming sexual stereotypes and using them for their own gain. Brushing aside preconceptions, the duo revamped strong styles that were previously seen as degrading to women including the baby doll dress and the barely dressed starlet. Confidence and irony are key to the Dolce & Gabbana look.
Once dubbed the ‘Gilbert and George of Italian fashion’, Dolce & Gabbana clothing celebrates the beauty and sexuality of the human form. Isabella Rossellini said “The first piece of theirs I wore was a white shirt, very chaste, but cut to make my breasts look as if they were bursting out of it”. Their aesthetic is anything but bashful; they happily squeeze as much exuberance as is possible into each jacket, suit or Dolce & Gabbana dress. Plumbing their immense sense of satire and wit, the designer’s spirit owes much to the whimsy of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Much of their inspiration comes from the pre-feminist era of heaving bosoms and corseted waists, which they modernise and inject with a sense of glamour and glitz. The signature for their designs is ‘sweet and sharp’ and their style encompasses nostalgia, glamour, unashamed sexiness and superstar chic.
The flash and fetishism of Dolce & Gabbana’s designs have always been underpinned by their immaculate Italian tailoring skills and as the label and designers mature they are showing a more sophisticated side to their designs.
Dolce & Gabbana is formed of two lines and has become one of Italy’s most important and successful RTW companies. The Dolce & Gabbana mainline is aimed at the luxury market; designs are formal, timeless and less seasonal. In this level you will also find eyewear, watches and the popular Dolce & Gabbana purse and handbag range. The diffusion line is called D&G; more casual and urban inspired. There is also a D&G line of accessories.
Like the other Italian giant Armani, D&G continue to extend their creative reach, branching out into ‘lifestyle’ enterprises, including a restaurant called Gold that opened in 2006 and a theatre and event space called Metropol, in their home city of Milan.
Dolce & Gabbana have been involved in their fair share of controversy. Criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2007 for producing an advertising campaign featuring models brandishing knives, in the same season the company pulled an European based advert showing a man pinning a woman to the ground by her wrists while a group of men looked on.