Gabbana. His posture was peculiar to BACKSTAGE NOTES tailors around the world—a sort of crouch that permits the hands to range from the trouser hems to the waistband HANDS AND EYES to the shoulders and collar with a mini- mum of additional bending and reach- When Dolce met Gabbana. ing. The hands were working over the garments in a blur, pinning, stitching, BY JOHN SEABROOK nipping and tucking, and always ﬁn- ishing with a little pat. As the hands M ilan was cold and foggy, and al- though it was still midafternoon when I arrived outside the Dolce & lobby area at 7 Santa Cecilia, huddled so close to one another that it was nec- essary to thread a path through them in worked, the legs described tight circles around the standing model, sometimes moving forward, sometimes backward. Gabbana showroom, at 7 Via Santa Ce- order to reach the receptionist’s desk. The models towered over Dolce, their cilia, the January day was already grow- Many wore headphones, and their heads heads far removed from the whirl of tai- ing dark. The city had been under a were bobbing gently. They looked seri- loring going on below. blanket of subalpine fog for days, and ous and introspective, as though they Sitting languidly on the other side the air was brown and felt gluey, as were psyching themselves up for the big of the room, ignoring Dolce, was a tall though the mist and trapped smog were game. man in camouﬂage pants and an olive- congealing. Upstairs in a large, high-ceilinged green V-necked sweater, worn over a This was the last of three days of ﬁt- atelier, a short bald man was busily, navy-blue collared shirt. His clothes had tings for the Dolce & Gabbana win- almost manically, ﬁtting the models the casual appearance that is often the ter, 2005, men’s show, which would be with the clothes they would wear in the result of careful calculation. He was thin staged the following afternoon, in the show, one at a time. A row of pins was and deeply tanned, and had a heavy- courtyard next to the showroom. It stuck into the front of his left trouser lidded expression that was not tired was to be a big show, with eighty-six leg, and the handle of a pair of scissors or bored, exactly, but profoundly list- outﬁts, or “exits,” to be worn by sixty protruded from his right front pocket. less. This was Stefano Gabbana, Dolce’s models. Several dozen of those models This was Domenico Dolce, the forty- forty-two-year-old partner. When he were occupying the ﬂoor of the cramped six-year-old part owner of Dolce & rested his forehead in his hand, a small CONTRASTO Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana: Their look is as much about attitude as about clothes. Photograph by Stefano De Luigi. 90 THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 90—133SC.—live opi art—r 13930—critical cut to be watched throughout the entire press run tattooed cross could be seen on the back reconciled. The jeans had splashes of of his neck, emerging above his shirt paint, studs, snakeskin inserts, and em- collar, part of a more elaborate tattoo broidery, and were worn and abraded below. in a variety of ways. Indeed, the exqui- The designers had been working on site distressing of the fabric is almost as this collection since August. Dolce does time-consuming and costly as the em- almost all of the tailoring, ﬁrst sketch- broidering of it; workers make most of ing the outﬁts, and then slowly build- the holes by hand, cutting the denim ing up prototypes in muslin, on dozens with knives and rubbing it with pumice of mannequins around his studio. Gab- stones. But, no matter how ornamental bana helps with selecting the fabric and the jeans are, they all ﬁt in the same deciding on the over-all feeling of a classic, unﬂashy way. For Dolce & Gab- collection, but his essential contribution bana, the impulse toward excess is al- to the creative process doesn’t come into ways straining against the boundaries play until the ﬁttings start. Gabbana’s of good tailoring. expertise lies not in the making but in Dolce and Gabbana are becoming to the judging of an outﬁt, and his work the two-thousands what Prada was to the is performed in an instant—that instant nineteen-nineties and Armani was to the in which an outﬁt makes its impression. nineteen-eighties—gli stilisti whose sen- He is the eyes for Dolce’s hands. Now sibility deﬁnes the decade. In 2003, the the eyes looked starved; they seemed designers sold more products in Italy— to require regular servings of fresh im- clothes, sunglasses, perfume, underwear, agery to keep them animated. It was as watches, jewelry—than any other fashion though denial were sharpening their ap- house. And although the house is still petite for the moment when, at a signal only half the size of Armani in world- from Dolce, they would be turned loose wide sales, it is catching up fast. (Last year, on the outﬁt. the company passed Versace in total sales.) Dolce & Gabbana is the anti-Armani. D olce and Gabbana sound like their clothes. They talk about their work in the same way they do it. Dolce starts Giorgio Armani discovered a way of ex- porting a distinctively Italian style—the sleek, gray-toned aesthetic of Italian in- a point, Gabbana embroiders the facts dustrial design—to America by linking with color, spinning the anecdotes out, it to cinematic notions of glamour. In and then Dolce rounds the discussion off doing so, he taught Hollywood how to with a nip and a tuck. dress Italian. Dolce and Gabbana ab- Gabbana: “I like clothes, but not so sorbed this triumph and, a decade later, much to touch them. I don’t want to reversed it: they taught Italians how to spend too much time on one pair of look Hollywood. clothes.” It would be hard to gauge Dolce & Dolce: “He has a very quick eye.” Gabbana’s contribution to fashion his- Gabbana: “I have to like the image, tory by pointing to a silhouette or a form then I just want to move on. Domenico the designers have changed, or a fabric is a perfectionist.” they have pioneered. In their women’s Dolce: “I like to feel the clothes.” clothes, they have always favored the full- The sartorial dimension of that con- ﬁgured woman over the skinny, man- versation was evident in the eighty-six nish silhouettes of minimalists such as outﬁts hanging on movable metal racks Prada, Jil Sander, and Helmut Lang, but around three sides of the room, next to this is hardly revolutionary. Perhaps the their respective accessories, which were best place to see their inﬂuence is on the neatly packaged in slim clear plastic sidewalks of any Italian city—low-slung bags, like kids’ snacks. There were the ﬂared jeans that drag on the pavement, dark conservative suits and overcoats of worn with a studded belt, a knitted skull- Dolce’s Sicilian heritage, and there was cap, sunglasses, and jewelry, underwear also a fox-fur coat with patchwork cam- showing above the waistband. Their ouﬂage details—a look that was decid- look is as much about attitude as about edly more Gabbana. There were thirteen clothes—pants with lots of pockets, but- kinds of jeans in the collection: denim tons, and zippers, plus a drawstring and is the fabric in which the designers’ di- some dangling straps, buckles, studs, and verse personalities are most successfully large metallic logos. (You don’t want to 92 THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 92—133SC.—#2 page RETREAT The city abandoned, its citizens ﬂed. A paper chain hung on the wall left standing. A single ﬂip-ﬂop graced the hard-packed ﬂoor. The rest diminishes their loss: these were barracks and yesterday the men tried to blow a hole through me as I squatted up the road taking note of their grim frenzy, like termites, no, more like tiny sailors from a different time, when war came over water and the battle arrived at a delay. There was nothing to do but watch the enemy grow from blot to galleon; colors nailed to the mast. Like the bright orange ﬂashing we hung on the car’s hood that said to the sky, don’t bomb us we are your friends. These others, they had no friends in the sky. —Eliza Griswold get stuck behind a Dolce & Gabbana the fashion world. Their business and fan when going through an airport metal their distinctive style are based not so detector.) These are clothes to brighten much on family history and artisanal tra- listless glances. ditions as on their relationship with each other. And the only reason that Dolce “ D ’accordo,” Dolce called out, and that was Gabbana’s signal to look. His eyes inhaled the outﬁt. He unfolded and Gabbana are creative and business partners at all is that they were romantic partners ﬁrst. his long limbs and rose from his chair. If Dolce was born in 1958, and grew he didn’t like something, he would say up in the town of Polizzi Generosa, “No” immediately. Dolce rarely argued, near Palermo, in Sicily. His father, Sa- and, if he tried, Gabbana would wag verio, was a sarto—a tailor—and his his ﬁnger and shake his head, and say mother, Sara, sold fabric and clothing “No” again. in the local emporium. His father made This time the verdict was “Sì.” The clothes for both men and women, for all model was wearing jeans, a belt with a occasions, from the heavy woollen coats big “DG” logo on the buckle, and no worn by the gentry when on horseback shirt. Gabbana walked around behind to the black velvet peasant caps worn him, nodding approvingly at the ﬁt.Then by their estate workers. He also made he scooped a few pieces of jewelry from a wide variety of undergarments, from the baskets of bling that were on a table men’s sleeveless T-shirts to women’s bras, behind him and draped them over the girdles, corsets, and petticoats. If there model’s chest. was a wedding in town, he would make “Perfetto,” Gabbana said, and sat the dress for the bride and the suits for down to await the next model. the groomsmen. Seasons in the Dolce household were marked by the weights U nlike the Guccis, Pradas, Puccis, Zegnas, Ferragamos, and Fendis, Dolce and Gabbana do not come from of the fabrics that the family worked with: linen for summer; velvet, gabar- dine, and light wool for fall; heavy wool families with long pedigrees in the pro- for winter; cotton for spring. In all Dol- duction and sale of luxury goods—one ce’s memories of his youth, he always of those families which occupy quasi- sees weather and fabric together: the noble status within the Italian fashion way the light looked on the cloth. At hierarchy. They began as outsiders, with night, the clothes that his father was their noses pressed to the windows of working on hung from overhead racks THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 93 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 93—133SC. in his shop, and they loomed large in the ion design at the Marangoni Institute boy’s imagination. but dropped out after four months, be- Dolce: “I made my own pants when cause he realized that he already knew I was six years old.” everything the school had to teach. His Gabbana: “Like for a doll.” dream was to work for Armani, whom he Dolce: “I make all the clothes in my had never met. One day, without mak- father’s shop.” ing an appointment, he carried his book Gabbana: “You see? He is a genius. I of sketches over to Armani’s headquar- am not like him.” ters, on Via Durini. Inside the door, there Gabbana was born in Milan in 1962. was a long white carpet leading to the His father worked in a printing fac- receptionist’s desk. Dolce wasn’t sure tory, and his mother ironed for a laun- if he should walk on it with his shoes dry service. on.“I am such a cretino,” he says.“I know Gabbana: “Fashion and luxury were nothing.” He decided that he would look not what my family talked about at ridiculous appearing at the front desk home. The only designer I care about without shoes, so he approached by was Fiorucci.” sidling along the wall, where he could Dolce:“Who wasn’t even a designer.” step without sullying the carpet. He Gabbana: “More like a graphic artist doesn’t know if Armani ever saw the who works in clothes.” sketches. Dolce: “A style-maker.” Dolce found a job as an assistant to Gabbana: “I didn’t know!” a designer named Giorgio Correggi- Gabbana’s main interests as a teen- ari. One night at a club, he met a kid ager were “pop music, going dancing, named Gabbana. Dolce, quiet and shy, riding my motorino around, and acting was impressed with Gabbana’s good crazy. I wore a Lacoste shirt, Levi’s, and looks and outgoing personality; Gab- Ray-Bans, the original green ones with bana wasn’t so taken with Dolce, but he gold frames, and boots with a square was happy to hear his advice on how to toe, but not Frye. And I have lovers,” he approach Correggiari for a job. Correg- added gravely. “Many lofers.” (I thought giari ended up hiring Gabbana to work for a moment he meant “loafers,” and on sportswear, and Dolce taught him wondered how many pairs a guy can how to sketch and the basics of tailor- have.) Gabbana’s memories are a daz- ing, and in the process they became a zle of color, light, and speed—life as couple. By 1983, they had parted ways seen from the saddle of a motorino. with Correggiari and were living to- (He still rides a motorino around Milan, gether in a one-room loft in Milan. The and you can often spot it—it’s the one room had a round, wobbly wooden table painted in leopard print—parked on the in the middle, and they would sketch sidewalk of Via Goldoni, outside the sitting across from each other. If one company’s magniﬁcent glass-sheathed erased too hard, the table would jig- ofﬁce building.) He studied gle and spoil the other’s line. graphic design in high school Dolce: “We always ﬁled but wasn’t much of a student, two different invoices for the and on completing his studies freelance work we did, even he needed a job. A friend sug- when we were working for the gested the fashion business. same client.” This was the early eight- Gabbana: “Our accountant ies, the dawn of the Italian- said, ‘Why not just do one designer-ready-to-wear era. invoice for both of you? Put In 1982, Giorgio Armani was Dolce and Gabbana at the top.’ ” on the cover of Time, partly as a result So the brand was born, the brain- of the success of the ﬁlm “American child of a Milanese bookkeeper. Gigolo,” in which Richard Gere could In 1985, Dolce & Gabbana was one be seen on movie screens cavorting in of six new talents chosen to design pieces Armani while Deborah Harry sang for the Milan shows. As a result, the de- “Roll me in designer sheets, I’ll never signers were able to persuade a factory get enough.” in Piedmont to make the clothes for Dolce was already in Milan. He had their own collection. enrolled in a three-year course in fash- Dolce: “I am getting up at ﬁve to do 94 THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 94—133SC.—live opi spot art—N44646_C—please inspect and Report on quality the three-hour drive, then drive back the clothes themselves. One could argue restraints of taste and tailoring, the com- at night.” that Dolce & Gabbana established it- pany could not have become the phe- Gabbana:“Because I don’t like to stay self with the public mainly through ad- nomenon that it is today. By the end in hotels.” vertising, rather than relying on the ap- of the nineteen-eighties, the designers’ Dolce: “So we went back and forth. proval of the fashion press. However, good Catholic girl was showing more and In this little car. We were so young.” while Scianna’s photographs gave the more of her underwear, and by the early Gabbana: “You don’t think then. brand an identity that Italians could nineteen-nineties that underwear was You are very naïve, and everything is relate to, it was too Mediterranean to leopard print, which became a Dolce & spontaneous.” capture a wide audience outside Italy. Gabbana trademark. Leopard print al- That collection, called “Real Women,” Seeking to broaden their appeal without lowed the designers to combine the débuted in March, 1986. There were losing touch with their Italian roots, the naughtiness of the boudoir with the stretchy black jersey dresses with ﬂow- designers began appropriating imagery baroque formality of the Sicilian aris- ing toile sleeves and shawls. The clothes from neorealist Italian cinema. Scenes tocracy. But, with Dolce pushing Gab- were weirdly funereal and sexy at the from classic ﬁlms by Rossellini, Fellini, bana toward elegance, the line also began same time.The press liked the line, but it De Sica, Antonioni, Pasolini, and Vis- to develop a kind of ecclesiastical ﬁn- didn’t sell. Gabbana wrote a letter to the conti, as well as from movies featuring ery; these were clothes for women who fabric supplier, cancelling their order for Totò, an Italian comedian, were inter- wanted to feel like a papal nuncio. The the next collection, and, feeling defeated, preted by the most prominent commer- men’s line began in 1990, and repre- the couple went to stay with Dolce’s cial photographers and models of the sented a return to the company’s more family in Sicily for the Christmas holi- nineties. These images allowed custom- conservative roots; Dolce has always been day. There, Saverio Dolce offered them ers to feel that they were buying cos- more in control of the men’s clothes. the money to pay for that collection. It tumes for a “Dolce Vita” fantasy of their On the other hand, in a younger line, was too late, Gabbana told him, because own. The idea wasn’t particularly subtle, D&G, for men and women, which dé- they had already cancelled the fabric but it was effective. buted in 1994, the Gabbanian impulse order. But the letter to the supplier had toward excess was given free rein. been lost in the mail, and the fabric was waiting for them when they returned to Milan. W ithout Dolce’s tailoring abilities, and his sense of propriety, bred in the provinces, the company wouldn’t With the changing nature of the de- signers’ collaboration, the ideal Dolce & Gabbana woman evolved from Anna have had a chance. But, without Gab- Magnani in Rossellini’s “Roma, Città O n that same trip to Sicily, Dolce had seen a billboard in Palermo that showed a black-and-white photo- bana’s urban freedom from those same Aperta” (a modest but powerful mother graph of a woman in a shawl, with her head down, in a sorrowful attitude. He couldn’t get the image out of his mind. He found out that the photographer’s name was Ferdinando Scianna, an Ital- ian photojournalist known for his neo- realist depictions of Sicily. Dolce asked him if he would photograph their clothes. Scianna refused, saying that he wasn’t a fashion photographer. But because he was Sicilian the designers eventually per- suaded him to come to Sicily with the model Marpessa, a quiet, introverted beauty, who, wearing no makeup, posed among ﬁshermen and fruit sellers and old ladies, in grittily realistic surround- ings that recalled the aftermath of an earthquake. Only later did the designers discover that Scianna had not, in fact, shot the photograph that Dolce had seen in Palermo—a photographer named Le- tizia Battaglia had taken it. Like so many of the best things about Dolce & Gab- bana, the campaign was an accident. Scianna’s early advertising images were at least as important in introduc- ing Dolce & Gabbana to the public as “It makes me feel better about myself.” TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 99—133SC.—live opi art a10334 ﬁgure, in dark, layered clothes, with in the same building in Milan, across lots of skirts and sweaters, and somewhat the street from where they work. unbuttoned blouses), to Sophia Loren Because so much of the unique ap- performing a striptease for Marcello peal of Dolce & Gabbana rests on the Mastroianni in De Sica’s “Ieri, Oggi, unlikely union of the two designers’ per- Domani” (bras, corsets, and other un- sonalities, one has to wonder whether dergarments from the rafters of Saverio their business can survive the breakup. Dolce’s shop have been reimagined and Gabbana: “At ﬁrst, I just wanted to transformed into outer garments), to Ma- leave. Just leave. But let’s face it—I am donna, who wore a Dolce & not stupid. So I stayed. Lit- Gabbana beaded corset at the tle by little, we become friends première of “In Bed with Ma- again, and learn to have a re- donna,” in 1991. Madonna lationship again, though ob- translated Dolce & Gabbana viously not like before.” for the masses. The designers Dolce:“We know each other created more than ﬁfteen hun- very well.This is real love,when dred costumes for Madonna’s you get to know the person be- Girlie Show Tour, in 1993, hind the person.” and, more recently, designed Gabbana: “We were to- the white cowgirl outﬁt for her “Music” gether for nineteen years, night and video. Nowadays, the ideal woman is day—it’s like forty-ﬁve years, for most Monica Bellucci, a bellissima Italian ac- people.” tress who always seems to be weeping in her ﬁlms, and who is the subject of the director Giuseppe Tornatore’s short ﬁlm for the company’s fragrance, Sicily. (The “ L ook at this boy,” Gabbana was saying now to Dolce,studying the head shot of the next model to be called up for a ﬁt- ideal Dolce & Gabbana man never strays ting.“Look at his face.” With his ﬁngers, far from the soccer ﬁeld.) Gabbana drew a circle in the air around Almost two thousand people work the face. “He is a beautiful boy, no?” at Dolce & Gabbana. The business is Dolce shrugged and said, “Sì, beauti- still entirely owned by the two design- ful.” He walked back to the ﬁtting area, ers. In 2002, Gabriella Forte, the former to await the boy’s arrival. head of Calvin Klein, was brought in It was past ﬁve by now. Only a few to oversee the North American market, models remained to be ﬁtted, but the pro- which is just a sixth the size of the com- cess had dragged on longer than expected, pany’s combined European sales. In re- and the designers had work left to do on cent years, both Moët Hennessy-Louis the women’s “pre-collection”—the line Vuitton and the Gucci Group have of- they make for the buyers, before the run- fered to buy Dolce & Gabbana. “What, way show at the end of February. And do we need more mahney?” says Gab- there were also ﬁttings to be completed bana, apropos of those offers, rubbing for the D&G men’s show, which would his ﬁngertips together. Apparently, they be staged two days after the Dolce & do not. In addition to their apartments Gabbana show. One could sense the bur- and ofﬁces in Milan, the designers have den of all the looks still to process, stacked houses in Monte Carlo and Stromboli, up like incoming aircraft waiting to land. and they recently bought L’Olivetta, a Gabbana:“When we started, we were villa in Portoﬁno which Prime Minister a two-million-lira company. Now we Silvio Berlusconi had reportedly tried are—” to purchase. Dolce: “Almost a one-billion-euro But success has come at a price— company.” Dolce & Gabbana is no longer Dolce Gabbana:“Wholesale.We didn’t have and Gabbana.The relationship on which much money, so we had to do everything the business was based ended two years in stages.” ago, although the designers have publicly Dolce: “One thing at a time.” acknowledged the breakup only recently. Gabbana:“Now we have to do every- They continue to own their homes to- thing at once. Because that is what the gether, but they now have different boy- customer wants.” friends; the two couples often travel to- Gabbana’s cell phone rang, and he gether. They live in separate apartments walked to the other end of the big room 100 THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 100—133SC.—live opi spot art—N44646_D—please inspect and Report on quality to talk privately. He had recently ﬁnished taping ten new episodes of a dating real- ity show called “La Sottile Linea Rosa,” or “The Thin Pink Line,” an Italian Fox variation of an English series called “Straight Dates for Gay Mates.” In the show, Gabbana plays the fairy godfather who drops in from time to time with fashion advice. (“With a body like that, a black sheath. It looks good on me, just imagine how it will look on her.”) He can be seen holding a magic wand, sit- ting in front of dozens of burning can- dles of different lengths, with leopard- print wallpaper in the background. Dolce didn’t want to participate in the show, and the venture, coming at a time when they were separating, seemed to signal a break in their creative interests as well, but Gabbana did it anyway. Gab- bana, for his part, says that he is interested in exploring other acting opportunities. Gabbana returned as the beautiful boy, an American, was shown into the room. The model smiled, said “How’s it going?” to Dolce, and immediately removed his trousers. An assistant handed him some Dolce & Gabbana underwear to put over his briefs, and then he slipped on a chocolate-and-cream-colored tracksuit. The tracksuit was part of a relatively new addition to the Dolce & Gabbana line: luxury clothes for the gym. Several years ago, Dolce started going to a gym in the evenings, after work. He had never been sporty, like Gabbana, who told me, “I do track and ﬁeld, including pole-vaulting, in high school. Also bas- ket, swim, and volley.” The world of working out was new to Dolce, and rep- resented a more solitary existence, but he was impressed by how well dressed the men in the gym were—much better dressed than the women, who looked “awful,” he thought. But ﬁtting the tracksuit seemed to perplex Dolce. He kept fussing with the waist, adjusting exactly where the pants fell on the model’s “Adonis belt”—the muscles that curl down on either side of the abdominals. He tried hemming the pants, but that didn’t seem to satisfy him, either. He squatted at the model’s feet, holding the hem between his ﬁngers, his temples twitching with concentration. When I left, they were still at it. Out- side, night had fallen, but the smog had lifted, and the air had a sugary scent of snow. o THE NEW YORKER, MARCH 14, 2005 101 TNY—03/14/05—PAGE 101—133SC.
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