Last October, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana put on one of the most talked-about women’s wear shows of the season.
It was a full-on extravaganza, with a show stopping crimson and black collection that looked to the brand’s Sicilian heritage.
It was also a definitive moment in fashion’s relationship to the Internet, complete with a front row featuring some of the industry’s most popular bloggers and an elaborate high-tech production that projected the show’s backstage happenings on giant screens.
Weeks and weeks worth of gossipy Tweets, hyper-analytical newspaper “think pieces” and magazine trend stories ensued.
Nearly a year later, the designers opened up to us about their connection with the past and their newfound obsession with the digital future.
What are your earliest memories of fashion? How do those memories inform your work now?
Domenico Dolce: I was born in Polizzi Generosa, a small town in Sicily. My father was a tailor and my mother had a shop where she sold clothing, fabrics and curtains; it was like an emporium. Since she was very busy with her job, she brought my cradle to my father’s tailoring studio. So I grew up among needles and threads. I didn’t play with soldiers and car toys, but with clothes. I made my first pair of trousers when I was only 7 years old.
Stefano Gabbana: I didn’t study fashion and my family was involved in something completely different. I started my career studying graphic design. I got my degree and after six months of work I understood that graphic design wasn’t what I wanted. On the contrary, I loved fashion, even if I wasn’t very familiar with it. I loved Fiorucci and ripped jeans.
Many fashion designers have tried to grasp the blogosphere, but few have embraced it the way you have. What prompted you to seat bloggers in your front row last season and were you surprised by the reaction?
SG: We decided to open up our front row to bloggers because we wanted to communicate a strong message and if you believe in something you have to move forward with it even if this means breaking the rules. We had good feedback, even though we were expecting these strong kinds of reactions. We were also surprised by the amount of people who watched the Pre-Show diaries on our Web site.
DD: The Internet and the blogs represent a new way of communicating that we need and want to take into consideration for our work.
It was considered a turning point in fashion’s relationship to the Internet. Do you consider it that way?
SG: In the past, people didn’t trust the power of the Internet. That’s because in the luxury world the sensations that a product gives you are important or even more important than the product itself.
DD: For us, new technologies have always been important. But we always need to study and examine new things to figure out how they work. First of all, we had to understand who the blogs’ readers were, what they were expecting from a blog and the language that they use.
SG: We had to find a way to communicate these sensations through a video and this was not easy because the fashion world has always been for few people, while the Internet has always been democratic.
What are your favourite Web sites?
SG: … For my gossip fix I go to Perez Hilton–
DD: — and the fashion blogs of course. We love BryanBoy, The Sartorialist, Garance Doré and Tommy Ton’s pictures on his blog, Jack & Jil.
Does the Internet influence the way you work at all?
SG: The Internet doesn’t influence our way of working, but our way of communicating. It’s so fast and quick, handy and immediate. In the Internet, you can find everything, it is a perfect way to do research, but when we design we still use paper and pencils.
You launched both your men’s and women’s lines during times of crisis. In your opinion, how is this downturn different from the others?
SG: This financial crisis seems so strong because people had reached high standards of life and desires. The market was completely full and couldn’t hold up anymore.
Your last women’s collection and your most recent men’s collection seemed to return to your roots, would you agree? Why did you feel the need to look back?
SG: I totally agree. 25 years ago we did the first Dolce & Gabbana women’s collection and when we started creating our spring/summer 2010 collection we felt the desire to look back at our past.
DD: Sometimes to understand yourself, what you’re really like and who you are, you need to experiment and follow different ways. But with this collection we wanted to go back to the Dolce & Gabbana DNA. Both the men’s and women’s collections, can be summed up in three words: Sicily, tailoring and tradition.
SG: Our fashion reflects how we are, but in these difficult moments, we know that everyone needs to look at things that make them feel safe.
Madonna is starring in your latest ad campaign. What about Madonna inspired that selection??
DD: We have the same way of working. She is a control freak as we are. She is always involved in all the things she does. She is never afraid of saying what she thinks. And we love her for that!