Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are famous for building one of Italy's great independent fashion houses, which has gone even more upscale in recent years with the closure of their lower-priced label, D&G, and the introduction of a couture line, Alta Moda, which is not shown with the rest of the couture collections in Paris, but held at lavish destination events in places like Portofino and Capri. They have also become known, especially to people outside of the fashion realm, for their conservative political views — particularly their stance on "traditional" families and IVF. In conversation with British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman at the Vogue Festival on Sunday, the pair shed some light on both.
Gabbana said Alta Moda was born both out of a love of Italy — everything in the collection is made and sourced in the country — and to respond to customer demand for more special pieces. Dolce said it's a pleasure to "never compromise" on the collection, though the pair jokingly conceded "it is expensive, we are not Zara or H&M." They have kept away from the Paris shows because they want to avoid exposure to "mass media;" "Couture is very intimate," said Dolce. "[Alta Moda] has become a club, people show [up and stay] for the long weekend, get to know each other, start a relationship… then they fight over what to order," Gabbana added. While many fashion houses lose money on couture, the pair indicated the enterprise is profitable, pointing out that they are the rare high-end fashion company that makes money selling clothes, not shoes and bags.
Layer, Shulman asked for their views on the rapid changeover of creative directors at major fashion houses like Saint Laurent and Dior. Gabbana said it was strange that so many talented contemporary designers continue to work under deceased designers' names, and he has no desire to continue that tradition at his own house: "Christian Dior died a long time ago, and somebody works for this label, [it] change[s] and change[s], but at the end of the day, after Christian Dior died, you are never buying Christian Dior... When I die, I'm done… Imagine a Scandinavian designer mak[ing] a Dolce & Gabbana. No darling, it's not Dolce & Gabbana."
Recently, a slew of designer labels — from Burberry to Vetements to Tommy Hilfiger to Gucci — have announced that they will no longer adhere to the traditional show calendar, opting instead to make their runway collections available immediately after purchase (as is the case with Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger), to show during different months entirely (Vetements will show on the pre-collections schedule) and/or to combine their men's and women's shows (Burberry, Gucci). But Dolce & Gabbana has no intention of following suit. For one, it's not practical, they said: They need time for production, and to make last-minute changes right before the show. Gabbana pointed out that they already have plenty of new, never-before-seen things to introduce to customers each season: They make large pre-collections that aren't shown to the public until they arrive in stores, and their spring and fall collections contain many pieces that never appear on the runway; what they show is only a subset based on a very specific theme. "The show is [really] a promotion for [our] brand," Dolce said.
They have no plans to combine their men's and women's shows, either, arguing that they approach the two collections very differently. "We need to have a fashion show for men," said Gabbana. "For Dolce and Gabbana, men is men, women is women, I cannot mix… Our vision of women and men, the two are very different… Maybe we are old. For me, if you want to wear something for men or for women, it's fine. But for me, man is man, woman is woman."
Dolce and Gabbana have been following the public discussion about designer burnout, but the two aren't exactly sympathetic. "If you love this job, you will find the time [to be creative and develop ideas]," said Dolce. "Excuse me, being exhausted. Listen, it's your job." Gabbana added that he is "never exhausted" because he loves his work, urging designers to not be afraid to make a wrong collection, but to continue to push and push.
Homepage photo: Darren Gerrish/Vogue UK