Dolce & Gabbana Interview: Epiphanies, NFT and Haute Couture in the Digital Age | His | Style
even the company had to adapt to life during the pandemic. For Italian style moguls Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the power duo behind the eponymous fashion label, the lockdown allowed them to regroup, reflect and reappear in a whirlwind of color and positivity.
“The crisis has touched us deeply,” Dolce, who turned 63 in August, told me as the UK approached its so-called “Freedom Day”. “We paused for a moment to reflect on the really important things in life – our families, our loved ones, too often taken for granted.”
Dolce and Gabbana met through fellow designer Giorgio Correggiari in Milan in 1980. The duo established a consulting studio in 1982, before launching their first women’s collection under the “Dolce & Gabbana” brand in 1985. For Gabbana, 58, the past 18 months have also been a time of introspection.
“We are often overwhelmed by events and the speed at which they happen, by the rules of things like marketing and finance,” he says. “Now is the time for everyone to stop and think about what is worth living and working. “
At the start of the pandemic, Dolce and Gabbana made the decision to tackle Covid-19 head-on, making generous donations to medical research institutions trying to fight the virus. “We realized right away that we had to do something,” Gabbana says. “We have already been collaborating for several years with Humanitas University by funding scholarships for students of the MEDTEC school in order to obtain a medical degree. This is why we thought of continuing to support Humanitas University, whose excellence and humanity make it a full-fledged entity, with several initiatives.
“We understood that in any case, it was worth doing something,” says Dolce, referring to the help at the university. “Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us.
Humanitas University, located near Dolce & Gabbana’s headquarters in Milan, became the venue for the house’s SS21 fashion show – which was held in the summer of 2020, as soon as the organization of live events became possible.
Like most of the fashion industry, Dolce & Gabbana had to move on to promoting their shows and clothing online, which fostered within the duo an appreciation for digital technology and all the possibilities offered by its different media.
“We believe that today more than ever we can see ‘digital’ as a major trend,” recalls Gabbana. “We really believe in the importance of human contact, but it’s also true that now we can explore and take advantage of the wide range of possibilities available online. We have always looked to the future with positivity, because there is always something to learn, even difficulties.
Witnessing Dolce & Gabbana’s eagerness to explore these digital possibilities, the brand recently announced an exclusive TVN (Non-Fungible Token) collection in collaboration with UNXD, an organized marketplace for digital luxury and culture. NFTs, more easily described as digital assets representing real-world objects, are being bought and sold online and will form Dolce & Gabbana’s Genesis Collection which, starting in September, can be purchased exclusively through UNXD.com.
Technology, it seems, has also physically informed the brand. See the brand’s FW21 collection, with its space-age influences and sci-fi aesthetic, for proof. It’s a collection rooted in the messaging and street culture of the 90s. A collection, dare I, that might just be D&G’s most nostalgic. A result, perhaps, of the fact that it was created during a pandemic, when everyone was looking back for a sense of solace and melancholy?
“It’s not about nostalgia,” Dolce retorts. “Tradition and innovation have been two essential subjects for us from the very beginning – when we started we were transported by innovation; then we found out that we still needed our roots.
“We wanted to understand, in an era like this, where there is a new digital generation, how we could speak and have a better dialogue with our experiences, our traditions and the handmade, and combine all of this with innovation. . Also, tradition is meaningless if there is no innovation, and vice versa. Just like there is no Dolce without Gabbana!
Fittingly for a collection that seems to have traveled back in time, the fashion show announcing the FW21 collection for women was held at the prestigious Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa. While the decor was about as 21st century as it gets, much of the clothing on display was from the last decade of the 20e Century: Vinyl puffers, graffiti printed tie-dyes, shiny metallics and t-shirts with the words “90s Fashion” and “90s Supermodels” made up the majority of those seen on the runway.
“For this collection, we were inspired by the corsets that Prince used in his video to Cream, and the bodysuits often worn by Madonna, ”explains Dolce. “There’s also Naomi Campbell’s famous’ 90s gem and diamond bodysuit, and Linda Evangelista’s gem and diamond bra.
The focus on technology may also have been a strategic game to grab the attention of the TikTok generation, among whom ’90s fashion has become something of a style bible. “Young people told us, ‘We love 90s clothes,’” Gabbana reveals. “For us it was quite a shock – you’re talking about 30 years ago! We called this collection Next Chapter, because of the way it embraces technology, and that is why we have cooperated with IIT, one of the most esteemed scientific institutes in the world.
The masculine side of the FW21 collection was also influenced by the cultural values of a younger generation. “It reflects this idea of ’maximum freedom’ that the new generation has taught us,” Gabbana explains. “The freedom for a man to be able to put on nail polish or make-up, or to wear clothes that no longer have a particular gender definition – jackets, coats, pants… this comes directly from new trends in social media, and from what we’ve seen on TikTok and Twitch. We would like to connect with this new generation not as teachers, but as students who are also learning, constantly challenging ourselves.
Normally travel would be a requirement when looking for a new route. During the pandemic, options were limited. Scrolling smartphones and tablets has become a solution.
“The way we lived last year, we observed what is happening through social media,” says Dolce. “In the past, when designing a collection, it was normal to travel to big cities like London, New York, Milan, Shanghai or Tokyo to seek inspiration. More recently, it has become a necessity to do it online.
The SS22 collection looks like a natural progression from FW21, embracing the 2000s, with the tech theme continuing through a focus on lights – specifically, the lighting shows that take place in southern Italy, typically. in early July, when cities light up their famous buildings with colorful bulbs and lamps.
“The Luminaria are a very Italian tradition: a celebration of light, family and craftsmanship,” Gabbana explains. “This is the most important message of the collection. Light is great therapy for this dark time. Now we have to see the light, the joy and the happiness in the eyes of the people. “
It will certainly be a joy to be adorned with the multicolored handmade embroidery of the men’s collection, which features bright photographic prints on silk and hip-hop influences embellished with denim. It is, one might say, a far cry from the signature elements (slim silhouettes, hourglass dresses) on which the Dolce & Gabbana empire was built.
“Dolce & Gabbana’s DNA is the union of many elements,” says Dolce, speaking about what he thinks are the key themes that best characterize his company’s creations. “The harmony of opposites, femininity and masculinity, sensuality and austerity, the use of black and the use of color. Also, the sacred and the profane, the most eccentric print, the simplicity, the lace; we are all of that.
Gabbana elaborates, explaining where he thinks some of his brand’s main visual designs originate. “At the start of our trip, in 1985, we were referring to codes born from a mixture of North and South. [of Italy]. I come from Milan; Domenico is Sicilian. He likes linearity; I like the color. From this meeting was born our aesthetic, made of contrasts and very different elements. All of this has remained our strength and our constant, the basis on which we work every day, never losing sight of what is happening around us.
And yet, for all their willingness to embrace digital technologies and bank next year’s success on a futuristic, otherworldly aesthetic, it’s obvious that Dolce and Gabbana believe in the value of the here and now, human interaction and the magic of live and in-person shows.
“For us, fashion shows are the real experience and they must be the dream of those who participate in them,” explains Dolce. “This is why we bring so many eyes to the podium; in this way, we have the possibility to better inform ourselves and to fascinate ourselves. The timing of the show is everything, and the dream of the catwalk is fundamental to all of us on the court – stylists, buyers, journalists, we all need it!
“For us, the handmade and the human are a fundamental value,” says Gabbana. “They reflect the love we have for our work and the construction of each garment in search of a perfect balance between harmony of shapes and attention to detail.”
The role played by Italy himself.
“For us, Italy is the place where it all began and where everything always comes back, like a circle that closes,” Gabbana explains. “Each region has a story to tell, a folklore that reveals the soul of the territory and the people who live there – pearls of rare beauty that must be known; treasures of invaluable know-how. What we try to do with our collections is to say and transmit to new generations our love for these peculiarities.
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