It’s been a highly festive few weeks for Dean and Dan Caten, who not only celebrated the 20th anniversary of their Milan-based label Dsquared² but also their 50th birthdays.
Cherished by A-listers like Madonna, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake , the Canadian brothers have ventured from the label’s origins in menswear into womenwear, accessories, kidswear, eyewear and perfumes. The identical twins even have their own restaurant in Milan, called Ceresio 7. A couple of days before their Fall 2015 show, they talk to us about their highly profitable brand – it now generates over €210 million each year – the label’s celeb following and showtime bloopers.
Why did you choose to set up your label in Milan?
Dan: Milan is an international fashion capital and we wanted the clothes to be made in Italy so it was easier for us to look for factories and producers. Also, our father was Italian [he shortened his surname from Catenacci when he moved to Canada].
What was the moment when you knew it would work?
Dan: When we did our very first collection, we were turned down from the showroom who had ordered it in the beginning and we thought that was the end. So we set up a stand in a fair in Paris by ourselves and we sold the collection on our own. After those first four days, we thought we’d go home losers and we actually went home with half a million dollars of orders. It was the first moment when we had to present the collection to the public, from then on we had really good orders from really good clients. So we kind of thought “Hmm, seems like it’s going to work.”
What is your best memory of your first show in 1994?
Dan: The very first show was kind of quiet. It was a men’s collection that we called “Homesick”, which was like in a forest – the whole set was green. I guess it was quite Canadian, with long underwear and big sweaters. It’s really something when you see everybody dressed and groomed – the models looking all beautiful and put together. It’s a great feeling to see it look so good and like you imagine them to be.
What was the most challenging moment for you as a duo?
Dean: I think the big challenge was the life we had as kids, so we were well prepared for anything that would happen in our job. Nothing was going to stop us; we weren’t afraid of anything, We weren’t afraid of taking chances and risks. We work together, we live together, we go on vacation together. We are almost, in a weird way, a two-headed monster.
What was the hardest time for you creatively?
Dean: I’m happy to say there wasn’t! Actually there was one season where I wanted to die. It was a winter show and the guy in charge kept calling us, saying, “The shoes are in a helicopter now; they are coming”. Half an hour before the show, we realized that we weren’t getting any shoes so we had to run out and get basic shoes from a shop. And then he showed up. And then there was this new production person who we just hired and she was sending the models on the runway so fast, nobody could make the changes – it was a nightmare. But I guess the shoes thing was worse.
Did you ever think of giving up everything?
Dan: We aren’t quitters; we never quit… ever.
What is your favourite collection so far?
Dan: It was “Star 24/7” [in 2003], which was our first women’s collection. Nobody saw us coming and it was the best casting ever. Naomi Campbell was the first one to come on board and we thought “Naomi is doing it so it will work”.
Who is the model you loved working with the most?
Dean: That’s a hard one because we are like a big family and I’d hate to say that one is our favourite! Each and every one in their own way would be like our babies. Naomi of course, Cara Delevingne, Karolina Kurkova, Natasha Poly… they are all amazing.
Which celebrity best embodies the spirit of your label?
Dean: Madonna gave us the stamp of approval for the world, and when she gives you the stamp, the world wakes up and says, “We should keep an eye on these boys.” She embodies the brand the best because she always wants to be on the edge and always wants what’s new. There’s a reason that she’s been number one for 25 years; she has that lasting power when most people just came and went.
What was your happiest moment?
Dan: I think one of our happiest moments was when we opened our first shop in Milan because it felt like “Now we are here, we have bricks, we are right up with the big brands.” It made us cry tears of joy!
You both love music. What song could represent your fashion venture?
Dean: “Climb Every Mountain” by Christina Aguilera. It’s very powerful; it’s about facing challenges.
Why did you choose to ask Mary J. Blige to sing at your 20th anniversary show last month?
Dean: Mary has one of the most beautiful voices in the world, and the song she sang, “One Love”, is very inspiring and powerful. It kind of embodies everything we are as twins. We were so fortunate and happy she agreed to do it on our birthday.
Where would you like the brand to be in twenty years?
Dan: We feel like in the past twenty years we have been building the foundation of the company and in the next twenty years – now that we have now mastered our craft – we’d like to see it really expand and grow. We are ready to explode.