The Dolce & Gabbana aesthetic is, at its heart, colourful, celebratory, sensual and unashamedly feminine — ideals that lend themselves to the worlds of beauty and make-up. So the brand’s decision to bring its beauty division in-house, rather than continuing to license it to different partners, makes perfect sense.
Nonetheless, it is the first Italian fashion house to do so, and assuming direct control of the production, sales and distribution of its own fragrance, make-up and, eventually, skincare products, is no small undertaking.
A change in strategy by former license partner, Shiseido, prompted the brand to pursue this new course, which represents a considerable investment and expansion of worldwide operations.
An entirely new legal entity, Dolce & Gabbana Beauty, was officially launched on January 1, with headquarters in Milan. Under the leadership of Dolce & Gabbana’s president and chief executive Alfonso Dolce and Gianluca Toniolo, operating chief executive of Dolce & Gabbana Beauty, the new entity will apply the know-how, creativity and codes of the brand’s fashion, jewellery and homeware divisions to a new family of products.
“We are not creating something from scratch,” Toniolo tells The National. “We are just putting what Dolce & Gabbana has done for the past 35 years into the beauty category. We don’t need to do anything crazy.”
In doing so, it will realise an intention set out by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana when they first established their eponymous label more than 35 years ago.
“It was the dream of Stefano and Domenico from the very beginning, because when Dolce & Gabbana was born, it was in the minds of Stefano and Domenico to create a real fashion house, and beauty is a very important part of the fashion system. It is totally complementary. It is an important part of the lifestyles of our customers,” Alfonso Dolce says.
To make all this possible, Dolce & Gabbana Beauty has partnered with and become a shareholder in Intercos, a globally operating Italian company specialising in the development and production of beauty products. The new beauty division has already employed 177 people around the world, with plans to have up to 300 employees within nine months.
“This is real news for the beauty world,” Toniolo stresses. “Dolce & Gabbana is the first Italian company to bring the beauty category in-house. The category has a lot of entry barriers, both financial and manufacturing-wise, so the decision to bring it in-house was very courageous, but with a solid vision behind it.
“The big point of difference is if you look at other brands, the fashion division is completely out of the mindset of the beauty division — they are two separate entities, with two different creative directions.
"Here at Dolce & Gabbana, we are one brand, with different competencies and categories. It means the guidelines will drop directly from Mr Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, and this will allow us to speak, in the beauty category, in the same language as the other categories that Dolce & Gabbana is managing.”
It allows the brand to address a whole new group of customers.
“Beauty is an entry-level category — it’s a category that allows you to come into contact with your younger customers and for them to be contaminated by the brand,” says Toniolo.
“You can touch a lot of customers that might not be able to afford to buy a bag or something more expensive. But with €100 [$105] or €120, you can feel like you are part of the Dolce & Gabbana family.”
The focus this year is to develop the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance line. Since the release of its first perfume in 1992, the brand has created more than 100 scents — so it already has a solid standing in this category. But within the next two years, 80 per cent of the fragrance line will be completely new.
On the cards this year are a couple of “blockbuster fragrances for women”, including Q, which is currently being rolled out worldwide, with a Middle East launch slated for April.
An answer to Dolce & Gabbana’s popular men’s fragrance K, for king, the new Q, for queen, is crafted in Italy by perfumer Daphne Bugey, and combines notes of tart Sicilian lemon, blood orange, red cherry and jasmine. It is presented in a geometric bottle topped with a cherry red crown — a playful but artfully crafted nod to the crowns that so often accessorise the design duo’s fashion creations.
A second fragrance, backed by “a worldwide celebrity”, is due in September. This will be followed by make-up next year and skincare, where the focus will be on ingredients sourced in Italy, in keeping with the fashion brand’s deeply ingrained “Made in Italy” ethos.
The plans are ambitious and already moving quickly, despite a backdrop of global supply chain issues affecting many industries.
“Today, all the world knows about the shortage of materials, raw components, glass, etc,” says Toniolo. “I think supply chains all over the world are struggling with shortages. So we started this year with the perfect hurricane.
“Honestly, I will say that the vision Dolce & Gabbana had, to strike a deal, financial and industrial, with one of the major Italian companies operating worldwide, Intercos, allows us to work with them and to find solutions to these shortages. But for sure, we are struggling like everyone at this moment, with plastic, glass, paper and all other raw materials.”
Nonetheless, the duo are visibly excited about the prospects of this new division and the opportunities it presents. “We have the chance to speak to our consumers worldwide, in one language,” says Alfonso Dolce. “And that language is the Dolce & Gabbana DNA, the Dolce & Gabbana experience, the Dolce & Gabbana mindset of Italian style and craftsmanship.
“Domenico and Stefano started 38 years ago with one dream and today, thanks to all the people who have believed in them over the years, the dream is being given new life.”