Dolce & Gabbana had two central lines (D&G and Dolce & Gabbana) until 2012, when the lines merged under the label Dolce & Gabbana.
Dolce&Gabbana (spelled without spaces, unlike the name of the company) specializes in luxury items influenced more by designers and is more formal and ‘timeless’, responding to long-term trends as well as seasonal changes. It also sells sunglasses and corrective eyewear, purses, and watches. In April 2009 it launched its make-up range, unveiled at Selfridges, London by Scarlett Johansson. In February 2010, it was announced that American singerMadonna would design a collection of sunglasses titled MDG, set to be released in May of that year. It also has a set of fragrances for men and women. An example is ‘The One’ which is a perfume by Dolce&Gabbana.
D & G
D & G was the younger, more flamboyant diffusion line of the brand. Unlike Dolce&Gabbana, D&G sold watches as well as clothing: watches were manufactured by Naloni and Binda Group. In 2011, Dolce & Gabbana decided to discontinue the D & G-line in order to put “more strength and energy” into their other collections.
Domenico Dolce (born on 13 August 1958 in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily) began his career in the fashion industry after dropping out of a three-year course in fashion design at Marangoni Institute, realizing that he knew everything the school had to teach. His dream was to work for Giorgio Armani so one day, he carried his book of sketches over to Armani’s headquarters with the intention of showing the designer his work. Inside the door, there was a long white carpet leading to the receptionist’s desk. Dolce wasn’t sure if he should walk on it with his shoes on. “I am such a cretino,” he says. “I know nothing.” He decided that he would look ridiculous appearing at the front desk without shoes, so he approached by sidling along the wall, where he could step without sullying the carpet. He handed the book to the receptionist and to this day, Dolce doesn’t know if Armani ever saw the sketches.
Dolce found a job as an assistant to a designer named Giorgio Correggiari. One night at a club, he met a young man named Stefano Gabbana (born on 14 November 1962 in Milan, Italy). Dolce was impressed with Gabbana’s good looks and outgoing personality and Gabbana was happy to hear Dolce’s advice on how to approach Correggiari for a job. Correggiari ended up hiring Gabbana to work on sportswear, and Dolce taught him how to sketch and the basics of tailoring, and in the process they became a couple.
Soon after his hiring, Gabbana was conscripted for 18 months of mandatory military service, but in 1983, after his return in 1982, they had parted ways with Correggiari and were living together in a one-room loft where they often practiced sketching. Dolce: “We always filed two different invoices for the freelance work we did, even when we were working for the same client.” Gabbana: “Our accountant said, ‘Why not just do one invoice for both of you? Put Dolce and Gabbana at the top.’ ” So the brand was born, the brainchild of a Milanese bookkeeper.
The first collection from the design duo was shown in October 1985 alongside five other up-and-coming Italian labels apart of Milan Fashion Week. The two did not have enough money to hire models or provide accesories for them, so they sought help from their friends. The models (their friends) simply wore their personal items to complement the clothing. They used a bed sheet that Dolce had brought from home as their stage curtain.
The pair labeled their first collection Real Women, due in part to the use of amateur local women on the runway. Their sales from their first collection were disappointing enough for Gabbana to cancel the fabric order they’d put in to create their second collection. However Dolce’s family offered to help pay for their costs as the two visited them in Sicily over Christmas, and the fabric company did not receive the cancellation notice in time—so the fabric was ready for them back in Milan upon their return. They produced their next collection in 1986 and opened their first store that same year. Michael Gross wrote of their third collection in a 1992 interview, “They were a secret known only to a handful of Italian fashion editors. Their few models changed behind a rickety screen. They called their collection of T-shirt-cotton and elastic-silk pieces Transformation”. Their clothing in this collection came with instructions on the seven different ways a piece could be worn in an outfit, as the wearer could use Velcro and snaps to alter the clothing’s form.
Their fourth collection was the first to make a significant impact on the Italian fashion market. In this collection Dolce drew upon his Sicilian roots. The advertising campaign collection was shot by photographer Fernando Scianna on location in Sicily, in black and white pictures inspired by the Italian cinema of the 1940s. They continued the use of Italian cinema as inspiration in their fifth collection, drawing on the work of filmmaker Luchino Visconti and his filmThe Leopard.
One of the pieces from their fourth collection was labeled “The Sicilian Dress” by the fashion press, and was named by author Hal Rubenstein as one of the 100 most important dresses ever designed. It is considered to be the most representative piece of this era for the brand. Rubenstein described the piece in 2012 by writing, “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, [and so forth]. 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.”
Originally inspired by eclectic, thrift shop Bohemia, Dolce & Gabbana’s deeply colored, animal prints have been described as “haute hippy dom” taking inspiration in particular from Italy’s prestigious film history. “When we design it’s like a movie (Domenico),” says Domenico Dolce. “We think of a story and we design the clothes to go with it (Domenico).” They claim to be more concerned about creating the best, most flattering clothes than sparking trends, once admitting that they wouldn’t mind if their only contribution to fashion history was a black bra (Dolce & Gabbana 2007).
D & G trademarks include underwear-as-outerwear (such as corsets and bra fastenings), gangster boss pinstripe suits, and extravagantly printed coats. Meanwhile their feminine collections are always backed by powerful ad campaigns, like the black-and-white ads, featuring model Marpessa photographed by Ferdinando Scianna in 1987 (Dolce & Gabbana). “They find their way out of any black dress, any buttoned-up blouse (Domenico),” says Rossellini. “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 (Domenico).”
Once dubbed the “Gilbert and George of Italian fashion”, Dolce & Gabbana gave their fashion interests a musical turn in 1996, by recording their own single, in which they intoned the words “D&G is love” over a techno beat (Dolce & Gabbana 2011). Newer to the design game than other heavyweight Italian fashion houses such as Versace and Armani, the pair acknowledge that luck has played its part in their phenomenal success. By 1997, their company reported a turnover of 400 million, prompting both designers to announce that they planned to retire by the age of 40 – a promise they did not keep (Domenico).