Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana – the Italian lovebirds that made a billion euro fashion nest!
he Fall of the Empire:
The other day while I was browsing the Net, I came across a news item about a couple of fashion designers being sentenced to 18 months for tax evasion. I became curious and tried to learn more about the case as I rarely come across fashion designers in tax frauds. Almost all the fashion designers openly announce the fruits of their labor, which in turn boost their personal and their companies’ fame.
And the case in question is about Domenico Dolce ( aged 54, worth 1.6 billion euros), and Stefano Gabbana (aged 50, worth 1.7 billion euros), the two Italian fashion designers who started their fashion business together as partners and gay ‘lovers’ in 1985. The charges being that they used Luxembourg holding company Gado to avoid paying taxes on royalties of about 1 billion euros to the Italian government.
The couplets, known as the ‘Gilbert and George’ of Italian fashion, however, denied the charges, and their lawyer stated that they were going to appeal again and even seek the public opinion. It was rumored that if they had to pay the tax amount, 200 million euros, they might have to shut down their company!
Dolce and Gabbana are not just any two fashion designers; they are the world famous designers who dressed the movie world, and they are not swindlers who came to riches over-night.
In fact, during their first competition show, they did not have enough money to hire any models and so had their friends exhibit their designs on the catwalk. They hung a curtain backstage which served as the greenroom where their ‘models’ changed! There was a time when they lost hope and were about to give up, but for either of their parents who financed them, and only after a couple of shows that they struck the right chord.
The Rise of the Empire:
They have received accolades not from some kid fan who is pleased with their T-shirt design. There are international authors, journalists and fashion reporters who praised Dolce & Gabbana for breaking away from the serious and sober-minded fashions that dominated much of 1990s with their ‘super-feminine and fantastical style’.
Madonna, the darling pop singer, dancer, Hollywood actress and an institution for so many fashion and music lovers, has a long time business association with the duo. She was known to have said: “Their (D & C) clothes are sexy with a sense of humor — like me” (giggles). In fact, D & C won the international recognition when Madonna wore a corset made of gemstones to the premiere of Truth or Dare: In Bed with Madonna, at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Partnering with her, D & C designed about 1500 costumes for her Girlie show international tour in 1992 for her album Erotica.
Dolce and Gabbana made clothes for the movie ‘Romeo + Juliet’, a 1996 romantic American drama film adapted from the original Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Besides clothing Madonna for her ‘Drowned World Tour’ in 2001, this pair of wizards of the fashion stage, dressed up Missy Elliot, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston and Kylie Minogue for their business world tours.
Our famous dyad, D & C, labelled their first collection Real Women, making many women’s fantasies become real with their sexy cut and style clothing at modest prices.
The twain’s most important design, the ‘Sicilian Dress’ that represented their brand’s tailoring elegance, is worn by Anna Magnani, the Italian stage and film actress, and their silhouette is appreciated by the likes of Anita Ekberg, the sexiest Swedish actress and model, and Sophia Loren, the Italian international (Hollywood) actress.
The logo that makes a strong impact:
Their wonderful monogram logo, letters ‘D’ and ‘G’ in bold joined by an ampersand ‘&’, has a strong impact on the D & G customers and fans. As is the custom in the fashion world, they use their printed or metal ‘D&G’ logo on everything they produce. They have several brand names “D & G” with a space between D, ampersand and G; “D&G”, without any space between letters; “MDG”, the one they have partnered with Madonna; and some other. Therefore, we see simple Dolce & Gabbana on some items of clothing; we see D & G letters in bold, below them the letters Dolce & Gabbana; on some items, we see a wreath with a crown on the top with Dolce and Gabbana words written across the wreath in the middle; and we see just the metallic D&G logo on their leather goods: belts, shoes, bags; and we may find just the D & G on their eyewear; the other one, with letters D&G in bold and the word junior below we often see is for their junior division; the distinct D&G metal logo in patterns of ear-rings, bracelets and other trinkets show up their mark more than any words; there may be just the word D G, with space and without the ampersand on some items; and the D & G on the dials of their wrist-watches is very conspicuous and attractive.
These two smart doublets of fashion have strong ties with the movie industry, and they got inspiration for most of their initial designs from the movies of the yesteryears. They both acted in minor roles in a film named L’Uomo delle Stelle, meaning The Starmaker, and had cameo roles in the film Nine.
Their design career at a glance:
1985 ~~ established Dolce & Gabbana;
1986 ~~ launched women’s collection;
1987 ~~ produced a collection of T-shirts Transformation, with Velcro and snaps with which the wearer could alter the apparel form to suit their shape and opened their first store;
1988 ~~ launched ‘beachwear’ line;
1989 ~~ launched lingerie line & opened first boutique in Japan in agreement with the Kashiyama group;
1990 ~~ launched men’s collection & opened first boutique in Milan;
1992 ~~ produced D & G perfume;
1994 ~~ launched men cologne along with D&G men’s collection, women’s collection and home collection;
1996 ~~ introduced jeans and eyewear lines;
1997 ~~ released ‘By’ for women and ‘By’ for men fragrances;
1998 ~~ released DG Feminine and DG Masculine fragrances;
2001 ~~ launched Light Blue for women fragrance;
2003 ~~ released Sicily for women fragrance;
2004 ~~ opened first exclusive stores in London; designed on-field uniforms and off-field attire for AC Milan, a professional football club based in Milan; designed off-field suits for Italian National Football Team;
2005 ~~ (turnover was 597 million Euros & the gay lovers split their gay relationship but promised to stay as friends and partners in business);
2006 ~~ partnered with Motorola, a multinational telecommunication company, USA, to produce the ‘Motorola V3i Dolce & Gabbana cellular phone;
2009 ~~ partnered with Sony Mobile Communications, formerly known as Sony Ericsson, a mobile phone manufacturing giant, to design its Jalou cellular phone line with 24 karat gold details, and also partnered with Citroen, a French automobile company, to design their C3 Pluriel vehicle;
2010 ~~ partnered with Martini, an alcohol and beverage company, to produce a ‘gold edition’ of its vermouth & again joined hands with Madonna to launch a line of sunglasses, MDG – Madonna, Docle & Gabbana; designed on- and off-field uniforms and clothes for players and staff for Chelsea Football Club, an English football club, London;
2012 ~~ had a little bit of trouble at their Hong Kong store when a security guard prevented a Hong Kong local from taking a picture of the shop’s display window… after the news spread on the Net, a crowd of some 13,000 people alleged to have gathered at the store in protest against the store’s policy of refusing locals to take a snap of the shop but allowing the foreign tourists and mainland Chinese to shoot as they like.
With so much creativity in their designs, it’s no wonder they won a number of prestigious awards: they were twice the ‘designers of the year’ by FHM, For Him Magazine, UK; won the Woolmark award, an international fashion design award; GQ Magazine named these men of style their ‘Men of the Year’; voted the best international designers at the 2004 Elle Style Awards; their ‘Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme’ perfume was given the ‘best feminine fragrance of the year’; and their men’s collection first perfume won an Oscar for best male perfume.(Fifi awards are often called Oscars of the fragrance industry.)
Besides being industrial designers, contributing their share of designs to industrial products, they also wrote two books: ‘Fashion Album’ and ‘Hollywood’ that help budding designers a lot in getting their creative work to take a productive shape.
Whether they evaded taxes or not is a billion Euros question, but as fashion lovers, we need to support our co-religionists in their difficult times and wish them a verdict in their favour in the on-going law suit!
(And I’m sure that with their experience and influence, they will make a gentleman’s suit that wraps up the law suit!)