Q&A with D&G duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in the UAE

The Italian designer duo talk about a relationship that has spanned 30 years, doing business in Dubai and the beauty of never having time to dwell on the past.

Designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images
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They finish each other’s sentences, defer to each other constantly and have an enviable rapport, which has evolved from their 30 years as confidants and business partners. They are Dolce & Gabbana, the co-founders of the luxury Italian fashion house that bears their names.

The designers were in Dubai to hold consultations with some of their most important clients. On the sidelines of their meetings, we got to know the brains behind the iconic brand.

Welcome back to the UAE. What do you enjoy about your trips here?

DD: As Italians we love it here, especially in the winter. The city is beautiful and I love the architecture; the stone, the wood used. On a previous trip, I drove a couple of hours into the desert to a resort with wild animals; it was wonderful. Dubai is Arabian but it's also a place where East meets West. There's a feeling of freedom to the city, anything seems possible.

SG: Dubai is a long-term love of ours. It's special to us. The UAE is also a very important market and we sell prêt-à-porter well here, fragrances, make-up, accessories and glasses, too. This country has loved Dolce & Gabbana for a long time and we'd like to expand our beauty, make-up and fragrances here.

Do you find the surroundings inspiring?

SG: We take a lot of inspiration for Dolce & Gabbana men and womenswear from the south of Italy. In times past, Sicily had a certain domination over North Africa so there are many Arabic influences from food and flavours to fabrics and colours. So, we're not sketching things just for the UAE, for example, but we do love the women here and have specific limited-edition bags for Dubai.

DD: We have also designed a sandal for men, which will be available very soon.

You’ve worked side-by-side for three decades. Explain the ­dynamic.

SG: (laughs) You need to dedicate an entire issue to this question.

DD: It’s very complicated. It’s the biggest question ever! It’s like asking “Why do people love?” It’s impossible. We don’t understand the dynamic fully because we’re opposites and we fight, we joke, we work.

SG: We are different but also similar. For example, Domenico is very concerned with tailoring and cuts. I'm more concerned with prints and the fantasy elements of our designs. But when we start to work, I often become more like him and he becomes more like me. I've learnt many things from him and him many from me. Stay with us a couple of days, then you'll understand the dynamic.

DD: Or maybe you'll go crazy. (laughs)

Did you feel the synergy from day one?

DD: Yes, but just like a company's share price, sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. We started working together without any planning. Suddenly, two years had passed and the business had grown organically. When you plan too much, especially in business, it doesn't always work out.

Was there a defining moment when you realised the brand had hit the big time?

SG: Oh no. We often realise how successful a collection or event is, six months to two years afterwards. We're always working on the next project, so we don't have time to dwell. It tends to be people on the outside who tell us how well we're doing.

What about when Madonna famously wore your label for the first time?

DD: Ah yes, it was in the late 1980s, early 1990s when we started our relationship with Madonna; she was so cool. We understood it was the right moment and she gave us visibility around the world. When she chooses a designer or makes a certain statement, people pay attention.

What’s still on your professional wish list?

DD: My dream is one day, when I stop working or I die, that people will remember Dolce and Gabbana not just by looking at the share price but at the style. Money comes and goes, style remains forever.

SG: Yes, we want to leave a style behind. Maybe in the next century, a book might contain pictures of our collections. Our hope is that it's recognisably us, even without our name printed.

Talk about “Famiglia e Amore” (family and love), which you consider to be the brand’s DNA.

SG: Firstly, we are Italian! (laughs) Family is a famous southern tradition.

DD: When you need something, you go to mama and papa, they are always there.

SG: It's nothing to do with fashion, it's pure sentiment. Everyone has one specific image about what family represents; ours is very strong. I call my mum every day; my brother most days and I have a lunch or dinner every week with them.

DD: And love is so important for life. If you live your life in love, you'll always be happy and positive. Not love just in the romantic sense of the word; it's much bigger than that. Love is so important for personal growth.

Tell us about the exclusive Alta Moda couture show which you’re staging in Capri this July.

DD: Two years ago we began the project and it's always been one of our dreams. The big starting point for us was the iconic Alta Moda shows of the 1950s. In those days, journalists used to sketch the designs and people really came to look at the clothes. We loved the idea, the tailoring, the elegance, it was all captivating.

SG: We decided it was time to make something special, something not available to everyone like prêt-à-porter. We also started Alta Moda because a lot of customers asked for unique pieces.

Now, I know it sounds strange, but I live a very ordinary life. These people have extraordinary lives. We can’t reveal who they are, but they don’t want to see photographers at the fashion show, they don’t want to see pictures of what they are buying in magazines or know the one-off piece has been reproduced. They want something really special; it’s not about the price. So, we said OK, this will be our strategy and philosophy with Alta Moda. All pieces are totally unique in fabric, colour, shape and cut.

DD: And we can't tell you the inspiration behind Alta Moda Capri, it's a secret. (laughs)

SG: What would you like to see? Maybe, we will create a fairy tale.