Dolce and Gabbana

Rio Ali

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA232

Few brands typify the romanticized Italian ideal quite like Dolce and Gabbana (D&G). Sicilian stereotypes abound when envisioning the characteristic D&G garb—whether it’s the “Sicilian widow” draped in reams of black lace, the “Mafioso machismo” of pinstripe suits and fedoras, or the seduction of 1940s Sofia Loren-esque screen sirens epitomized by leopard print, lingerie, and lipstick, each look is distinctly D&G.

Interestingly, however, it is only Domenico Dolce who is of Sicilian heritage. Born there in 1958, Dolce’s mother sold clothing and fabric for a living. His father was a tailor from Palermo and taught him to make a jacket at seven years old. Four years his junior, Stefano Gabbana was born in Milan in 1962 to a father who worked in a printing factory and a mother who was a laundress. Gabbana went on to study graphic design and work in advertising in his native Milan; however, it was his favorite vacation destination of Sicily that would offer continual inspiration and seal the bond between the two partners. In 1977 Dolce moved to Milan to study at the Marangoni Institute, but found the schooling rudimentary and after four months started working for fashion designer Giorgio Correggiari. Gabbana followed suit in 1980, joining Correggiari and by 1982 Dolce and Gabbana were involved both romantically and professionally, starting their own consultancy firm, which grew to become their eponymous label.

Their first big break came in 1985 when the organizers of Milan Fashion Week invited the duo to show their designs as part of the young talents’ showcase. A year later they were part of the fashion week schedule, enlisting the help of friends and family to present their first collection, called “Real Women.” This was the start of a long line of successful ventures, with the establishment of lines in lingerie and swimwear (1989), menswear (1990), and accessories (1991). Madonna enlisted the duo’s services in outfitting her “Girlie Show” tour in 1993, and has been a devoted client and collaborator with the brand ever since (under the label MDG, the singer cocreated a collection of sunglasses in 2010).

However, with the many highs, there have also been inevitable lows for the duo. In 2005, after over twenty years together, it was announced that the pair were to split romantically. Moreover, after a six-year investigation into tax evasion, the designers were found guilty of this crime and both received twenty-month suspended prison sentences.

Dolce and Gabbana, Fall/Winter 1997. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Buxbaum Gerda , ed. Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century . Munich, London, and New York : Prestel, 1999.

Find in Library Jones Terry , and Avril Mair , eds. Fashion Now! Cologne : Taschen, 2012.

Find in Library Watson Linda. Vogue Twentieth Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade and Designer . London : Carlton, 1999.