Dolce & Gabbana has designs on your home
The steel-framed facade of Dolce & Gabbana’s Milan headquarters, unremarkable among the corporate buildings that line the city’s Viale Piave, is a silver veil giving way to a theatrical backdrop of red velvet and marble inside. Here Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sit in their office under the glow of chandeliers, the opulent space is a visual metaphor for the success of a multi-billion dollar business built on their Mediterranean aesthetic: a fusion of Sicilian heritage , craftsmanship and sensual femininity of Italian archetypes embodied by Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida with a cinched waist. It’s a fitting setting to talk about their latest venture, a home decor premiere line, which was unveiled at their Alta Moda show in Venice last year. This month, they will open two new Milanese boutiques: one dedicated to furniture on Via Durini, the other to a universe of accessories on Corso Venezia.
The Venice event was a spectacle, swirling around a fashion show in St. Mark’s Square with a guest list that included Doja Cat, Jennifer Lopez and Christian Bale. “We work with fantasy and reality,” Gabbana says of their work, recalling the designers’ debut in 1985 at Milan Fashion Week, where, unable to afford real models, they sent their friends on the podium instead. The following year, they produced their first collection, Real Women. Their work has evolved, and the references have since become part of a Dolce & Gabbana language, rich in animal prints, stripes, laces, flowers and artisanal techniques.
These influences carry over into Dolce & Gabbana Casa, a collection of furniture, textiles, tableware and accessories, currently sold on their website and farfetch.com, where prices start at around £65 for a notebook. “We like to dream big,” Dolce says, taking a sip from her espresso cup. “In this collection we have everything from blankets for the bed to glasses for the table.”
The homeware range was an opportunity for the duo to lean back on the pillars of their empire after a period of hesitant growth. Sales were damaged by the pandemic, but the biggest fallout came after their #DGLovesChina campaign in 2018: an advertising disaster that saw them lose 98% of their social media engagement in China. The creators have since realigned their ambitions. The launch of Casa also coincides with their decision to bring their €476 million wholesale beauty business in-house after their licensing agreement with Shiseido ended. The company remains in private hands.
This decision mirrors those of other luxury brands, which are targeting new audiences. According to analytics firm Clarivate, 50% of global luxury goods consumption is expected to come from younger, ‘more adventurous’ consumers by 2025. Samson.
While Dolce & Gabbana has experimented with homewares before – it launched 100 hand-painted fridges (£36,000) with Smeg in 2016, and a line of small appliances the following year with the same brand – the Casa collection is vast. It encompasses four themes: Blu Mediterraneo, referring to the vibrant earthenware of the Sicilian town of Caltagirone; animal prints, synonymous with the sexy and provocative side of the house, are represented by Zebra and Leopardo; and Carretto, where folkloric iconography of traditional Sicilian carts has been transformed into prints, then hand-painted onto furniture and tableware.
The duo has also collaborated with Venetian heritage brands such as textile company Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua and Murano glassmakers Barbini and Salviati. “We’re lucky because in Italy we can make whatever we want,” says Gabbana, picking up a glass – a simple-shaped piece that’s difficult to produce because the base, stem and container are mouth-blown in three distinct jewel-like colors. “Italy is full of craftsmen,” he continues, holding the glass up to the light.
The pieces are bold and assertive – pure Dolce & Gabbana. “They are part of our DNA,” says Gabbana. “We tried to do something very recognizable. Our work is like a diamond: it is multifaceted, because we work in many fields, from clothing to perfume. But the important thing is to give each project the identity of Dolce & Gabbana. It’s a bag to our liking – it’s our favorite things.
Dolce adds: “The blue majolica print is the color of the Mediterranean, of Capri or Positano. When you visit these places, you dream in blue. Carretto is full of bright colors, like people’s humor. Each theme represents an emotion, be it joy, sadness or sensuality. They are yin-yang. These are Dolce & Gabbana.
The pair like to refer to each other as opposites – the yin and yang of design. And despite their identical uniform of black pants and t-shirts, they are very different characters. Gabbana (59) is dark and flamboyant; Dolce (63) is more contemplative, but with a mischievous sense of humor. “We are two people: one from the south, one from the north. One is big, the other small,” jokes Dolce. “We have completely different backgrounds, but once we started working together it was easy for us.” The couple first met in the early 1980s at a club in Milan. Dolce had spent her childhood in Sicily, where her family owned a small clothing business. Gabbana, whose father worked in a printing company, was originally from the city and studied art and graphic design before turning to fashion. The two developed a relationship, both personal and later creative, while working at the Milan studio of Giorgio Correggiari. By 1983 they had left Correggiari to pursue their own careers. They dated for two decades, announcing that they had separated in 2005.
Their bond remains strong. “We have the same vision. We just have to mention one word and it will open all the words,” says Gabbana. Dolce adds: “Sometimes it’s a color, sometimes it’s the name of a photographer, a magazine, a book or a movie. We talk every day except weekends, sometimes over coffee, or at lunch or dinner as a family – we are a family.
They still live in the same building in Milan, their apartments one above the other, although both find a very different sanctuary in their homes. “Home is happiness, it’s about family and the love you share with them,” says Dolce, who describes her own home as orderly. “It’s also a personal statement, so like our clothes, I want everything about me to be accurate.” His greatest pleasure is when he finds himself alone at home enjoying a glass of wine.
Gabbana reveals her pad is more bohemian. “For me, the house is like a creek. I have two dogs, three cats and when I have time I like to stay home and watch TV,” he says, noting that they also have a cat at their HQ. “I love cooking, of course, but I spend 80% of my free time on the couch. I have everything I need around me,” he laughs.
These habits were important considerations when designing their own collection: the seats are spacious and the lounge chair more of a sleep station than a recliner. Dolce’s favorite pieces are bar cabinets, he says, pointing to the intricate hand-painted designs on the cabinets. “Details are so important. It is better to spend more on parts that will last a very long time. You live with them every day, they become your friends – just like in the fairy tale The beauty and the Beast.”
Gabbana sees the duo’s role, whether as designers of majolica chairs or crystal-embroidered couture, as akin to film directors. “I always feel like we’re making a movie, and in that movie there’s always new kids or characters,” he says. “For Domenico and me, it is important to offer a small part of the dream, and when we create our fashion shows, we work like directors: we decide on the title, the actors, the music and the clothes.”
“We are very ambitious and our dream is to leave something that we will remember when we die,” concludes Gabbana. “We want to grow and explore new things and now with technology, NFTs and the metaverse…” For designers, the Casa is the new way to groove.