In 1980, the fashion gods were smiling over Milan when Domenico Dolce& Gabbana met. Sicilian-born Domenico’s dream was to work for Giorgio Armani, but having dropped out of a 3-year fashion course because they could teach him nothing new, he was working as an assistant to a designer. He met Stefano in a club and they quickly became business partners, and lovers.
Two years later, the duo established a women’s clothing design studio where their bookkeeper suggested the name Dolce & Gabbana; five years later, they displayed their first women’s collection at the Milan Fashion Week; and a year later, the first Dolce & Gabbana store opened its doors there. It might sound like a whirlwind, but despite being one of the top luxury Italian fashion houses now, their beginnings were humble.
With little money, the models at their first show “Real Women” were amateurs—friends and locals—wearing their own items to complement the collection, and the stage’s backdrop was a bed sheet. Their first collection sold badly, so they canceled the fabric order for the second collection. The gods were smiling again when the cancellation was not received in time, and the fabric turned up anyway.
Finally, their fourth collection, inspired by black and white Italian 40s cinema had an impact. They launched lingerie and swim wear lines, knitwear, and leotards. They began exporting their goods to Japan and the USA. They started a men’s collection and a perfume line.
With their brand growth, they started creating expensive designer gowns and became renowned for their crystal-adorned and embellished items, inspired by the painter Raphael and 50’s cinema.
This signature style earned them international fame when Madonna sported a Dolce& Gabbana gemstone corset and jacket at a premiere. Model Christy Turlington began wearing their trademark double-breasted jacket. After eight years, they won their first award “Most feminine flavor of the year”. They launched the brand D&G for the younger market and designed costumes for the film Romeo + Juliet. After a slow start, they reached sales of $500 million by the end of the 90’s.
Not only did they boom financially, but their influence caused an eruption in the fashion world and beyond. Following the conservative 90’s fashion, their feminine and whimsical style was a rapid departure. They courted controversy with raunchy advertising, erotic-inspired pieces, and “gangster chic”—30’s-style pinstripe jackets and black leather caps. Underwear as outerwear—corsets and bras—became a brand trademark. Soon, they were the measure of “cool” across the worlds of fashion and music, becoming favorites of famous pop artists.
Not only have they moved with the times—from the 80s to 2016—but they have continued to influence new trends and send ripples through the fashion world. They not only kept the corset alive, they forced its return to modern fashion. Their 2011 jewelery line followed suit, with traditional rosaries of luxurious gemstones and modern charm bracelets. With their roots deeply fixed in the Mediterranean, they fuse the classical past with the modern future—signature leopard and animal prints, flamboyant dresses, and striking suits.
Their fashion is eclectic, often described as the paradoxical “haute hippie”. Their brand is characterized by its luxurious, timeless items, artfully balanced with youthful exuberance. Every piece they design is unmistakably Dolce & Gabbana—from their classic black and whites, to their regal gold embellishments, to their erotically-charged femininity.
The pair describe their style as being “like a movie”, where they design clothes to fit a story. Indeed, each item of their clothing tells a story—the peasant, “the Principessa”, the businesswoman, the seducer. And there will undoubtedly be many more stories to come.