Dolce & Gabbana - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Italian ready-to-wear firm

Established: by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, 1982. Dolce born in Palermo, Italy, 13 August 1958; Gabbana born in Venice, Italy, 14 November 1962. Both designed in Milan, 1980-82. Company History: First major women's collection, 1985; knitwear collection first shown, 1987; opened showrooms in Milan, 1987, and New York, 1990; introduced lingerie and beachwear, 1989; Dolce & Gabbana Monogriffe shops opened in Tokyo, 1989, Milan, 1990, Hong Kong, 1991, and Milan shop for menswear, 1991; menswear collection first showing, 1990; launched signature fragrance line, 1992; introduced lower-priced D&G line, 1993; consultants to Genny for Complice line, 1990; opened Dolce & Gabbana and D&G stores in New York, 1997; signed licensing deal with Onward Kashiyama to distribute designs in Japan, 1998; opened Dolce and Gabbana nightclub, Postgarage, in Legnano, Italy, 1998; company assumed ownership stakes in two licensees, Dolce Saverio and Marcolin, 1999; split signature line into White Label and Black Label, 1999; launched complementary male and female fragrances, 1999; opened West Coast flagship store in Beverly Hills, California, 2000; launched Light Blue fragrance, 2001. Awards: Woolmark award, 1991. Company Address: Via Santa Cecilia, 7, 20122 Milan, Italy.

Dolce & Gabbana, fall/winter 2001-02 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Dolce & Gabbana, fall/winter 2001-02 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.




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Hume, Marion, "La Dolce Vita," in the Sunday Times (London), 4March 1990.

Dolce & Gabbana, fall/winter 2001-02 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Dolce & Gabbana, fall/winter 2001-02 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

Spindler, Amy M., "Dolce & Gabbana: Salt-of-the-Earth Chic," in DNR, 26 September 1990.

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Since their first womenswear collection in 1985, Dolce & Gabbana have evolved into perhaps the definitive purveyors of sexy clothes for women who want to revel in their voluptuous femininity. They have taken items like satin corset bodies, black hold-up stockings, fishnets, and maribou-trimmed baby dolls out of their previous demimonde existence and put them together in such a way that they have become classy outfits for the new glamorous image of the 1990s, an escape from the pervasive unisex sporty styles.

Loved by fashion magazines and film stars alike, the partnership of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana revives the Southern Italian sex bomb look, inspired by the films of Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, and Federico Fellini the pair grew up on, coupled with an adoration of the strongly romantic Mediterranean ideals of Sicily. They can take a large amount of credit for the rise in images of the fashionable woman empowering herself by reclaiming sexual stereotypes and using them to her own benefit.

They brush aside the preoccupations of other Milan-based designers with mix-and-match separates and revamp potent images previously deemed degrading to women—the geisha, the baby doll, the scantily clad starlet—and give them a new lease on life. Confidence and irony are key for Dolce & Gabbana: their women are very much in control, whether in one of their glittering rhinestone-covered bodices— notably chosen by postfeminist icon Madonna to make an impact at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival and subsequently filtered down into every High Street chain—or a slightly more sober but nonetheless sexy stretch velvet Empire cut jacket and leggings.

Although originating from opposite ends of Italy, Dolce and Gabbana's shared interests and influences give a sense of unity to their collections and an instantly recognizable look. Their use of film imagery and obvious love of the fiery beauty of stars like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida has imbued their advertising with an unforgettably glamorous style of its own. They combine supermodels with screen stars to create images that ooze an earthy sexuality.

The same key elements of sexiness mixed with traditional elements are applied to the menswear range, first shown in January 1990 and designed to complement Dolce & Gabbana's women. Skilled Sicilian craftswomen and tailors, supervised by Dolce's father, are employed to produce the internationally acclaimed menswear collections espousing a more laid-back, witty approach to the 1990s, after the brasher, more rigid styles of the previous decade. Muted shades of earthy browns are used alongside blacks with flashes of scarlet to produce modern-day versions of Sicilian bandits, with bandannas around their necks, and bikers in tattoo-covered leather jackets, lightened by the leggings used so widely by Dolce & Gabbana. Current fashion influences are often absorbed, the tie-dyed 1970s feel of their 1992 summer collection being a prime example, but there is always a more timeless selection of unstructured suits, often based on a 19th-century high-buttoning tighter-cut style, and knitwear that explores all its textural possibilities to give it a very tactile appeal.

Both Dolce & Gabbana's menswear and womenswear lines have been international bestsellers. Influential and innovative, the clothes express a confident, sexy glamor that, however potent, never overpowers the wearer's personality, making them one of the most important design forces to emerge from Italy in recent years. The partners have been working to expand their business outside of Italy and the rest of Europe, which together account for 70 percent of the company's business as of 2001. In 1998 Dolce & Gabanna signed a deal with Onward Kashiyama to distribute their designs in Japan, and in 2001, they held their first showing outside Milan. Naturally, given the pair's longtime ties to Hollywood, they chose the Los Angeles area as their venue.

The company's retail operations are growing worldwide, with owned and franchised boutiques in place for both the lower-priced D&G and signature Dolce & Gabbana lines throughout Asia, North America, and Europe, as well as in-house boutiques in upscale retail outlets worldwide. About half the company's approximately 50 stores are under the Dolce & Gabbana banner, with the remainder as D&G boutiques. The company entered New York's retail scene in 1997, opening both a flagship Dolce & Gabbana store on the Upper East Side and a D&G shop in SoHo, as well as debuting a West Coast flagship store in Beverly Hills in 2000.

Dolce & Gabbana has also expanded its licensing activity for both the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G brands, having moved into fragrances, eyewear, beachwear, innerwear, home furnishings, and teen collections. In 1999 Dolce & Gabbana took increased control over some of its licensed lines by maintaining a 51-percent ownership position in its signature collection licensee, Dolce Saverio (owned by Dolce's father) and six percent of its eyewear licensee Marcolin.

The company's footwear collection is one of its licensed success stories. Popular especially in the U.S., the Dolce & Gabbana shoe line includes more than 40 designs each year, along with 20 more under the D&G label. The partners believe footwear is not just an accessory but an art object on its own. They advocate free expression in footwear choices, such as wearing a chiffon evening dress with combat boots, as Gabbana told Footwear News in May 1997.

Fragrances are another significant category; the designers added new scents in the late 1990s to appeal to younger consumers, enhancing their already successful fragrance line. D&G Feminine and D&G Masculine were launched in 1999, first in Italy and then in the United States. Light Blue, for 25-to 40-year-olds, debuted in 2001.

Dolce & Gabbana split its signature line into Black and White labels in 1999. The former incorporated the duo's more cutting-edge work, whereas the latter was more basic and casual. The movement toward more casual dressing in the late 1990s favored Dolce & Gabbana's designs at all price points, since no matter how upscale, their clothing has always retained a certain degree of comfort and casualness. Combining luxury and comfort is an ongoing hallmark of Dolce & Gabbana collections.

Dolce & Gabbana has continued, as throughout its history, to be influenced by Hollywood and to spread the word about its line by outfitting Hollywood celebrities. In addition to maintaining their longtime relationship with Madonna (for whom they created costumes and sets for performances and albums in 2000), the duo has outfitted the likes of Mary J. Blige and Whitney Houston for appearances and performances. In some cases, Dolce & Gabbana designs for musicians and actors influence their direction in subsequent collections, when they incorporate some of the pieces and themes from music tours with which they have been involved.

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the designers maintained their focus on fun, sexy clothes for men and women, featuring animal prints, vibrant colors, high-tech and experimental fabrics, and innerwear-inspired items. They favor unusual combinations of styles and materials, dubbed "the corsets-and-pinstripes look" by Time International in March 1999. Dolce and Gabbana told Women's Wear Daily in the fall of 1999 that their goal was to achieve a mood of "comfortable elegance," an apt description of the sensibility typical of a Dolce & Gabbana collection.


updated by KarenRaugust

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User Contributions:

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