Purple Magazine
— S/S 2007 issue 7

Stefano Gabbana

interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
photograpy by TERRY RICHARDSON


Their summer 2007 collection was the sensation of Milan Fashion Week. By fully integrating into hip-hop celebrity culture, DOLCE & GABBANA has over 20 years steadily evolved into a global brand. The lives of its Italian creators are fantasies come true. I couldn’t wait to meet them. Stefano Gabbana talked openly, and with the energy of a dreamer, about luxury, Fiorruci, sexiness, their passion for models, and their extreme confidence in the future.

OLIVIER ZAHM — According to The New Yorker, the 80s were defined by Armani, the 90s by Prada, and this last decade by Dolce & Gabbana. How do you explain your global success?
STEFANO GABBANA — I can’t! I don’t know! I love it! I know what we are, but I don’t know exactly the outside opinion—how people see us. I’m certainely an extremely lucky, famous, rich, fashion designer, but I feel like an ordinary man. I don’t have a bodyguard. I go around the city on my scooter in jeans and a T-shirt. After 22 years of working, I don’t know if it’s the Dolce & Gabbana style that dominates the beginning of this century. It’s difficult for me to declare or to believe in something like that.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Your label is also an attitude. You embrace the media, celebrity, culture, and technology. It’s not just the clothes, and their sexiness, it’s all of the media culture, which is what new generation relates to. Maybe your fashion fits with this.
STEFANO GABBANA — We take our inspiration from life, so it’s so important to be aware of what people are doing. OK, VIPs and rock stars are a part of it all, but you need to pay attention. You need to watch the streets, the clubs, the restaurants, the small shops, to understand what people want, read, love, discover or rediscover…

OLIVIER ZAHM — But, do you agree that Dolce & Gabbana fits in the media culture?
STEFANO GABBANA —  Yes, I think so. We try.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Does that mean when you travel, Stefano, you have to look at everything?
STEFANO GABBANA — Yeah, but it’s not so difficult. My eye is trained to scan. Domenico and I are very similar. We’re curious. We look at everything from top to bottom.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I scan too, so I see you have two watches. Are they set for two cities?
STEFANO GABBANA — No, both are set to Milan time. It’s because I don’t like bracelets. I love watches.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You like to be glamourous, and you like the look of the rock star, the actress. You don’t have this fear of many designers who try to protect themselves, and stay in their “tour d’ivoire”.
STEFANO GABBANA — We live the life. I love la dolce vita. I love the famous people, but the ordinary people, too. There are two faces of Dolce & Gabbana. In appearance, I’m the most social. But, not in fact. Dominico is. I’d rather stay home with my friends and watch movies, or go on my boat on the weekend. I love dance clubs, and house music, but I prefer the private life.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re living the dream, as they say in America…
STEFANO GABBANA — It’s a style of life. I love to work. I love to play. I love to watch people. I love to wear my clothes. I love to wear clothes by other designers, and I love luxury. It’s a freedom.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s an Italian quality of life. You go for the best of life, the best food.
STEFANO GABBANA — We’re lucky because we live in Italy and we have so many things of high quality.

OLIVIER ZAHM — La Dolce Vita is finally a very dark film, expressing, as it does, the fascination for Hollywood and glamour of people actually living very dramatic lives of their own.
STEFANO GABBANA — It’s very Italian.

OLIVIER ZAHM — They have problems with their parents, and problems with their lovers, and they suffer. They suffer because suddenly they have an addiction to their “image”. Is there also a dark side of Stefano and Dominico’s lifestyle?
STEFANO GABBANA — Yes. We’re passionate—full of passion. We have a passionate towards everything, but sometimes too much.  We’re very strong. Very Italian. Very extreme. When I’m happy, I’m really happy. When I’m sad, I’m extremely sad.

OLIVIER ZAHM —  Same for Domenico?
STEFANO GABBANA — Same for him. Maybe more than for me, because he’s Sicilian, and people from the south tend to be stronger in character.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Like La Dolce Vita: you’re living a dream, but then this dream is not always that easy. After 20 years, is there also a part of your work, or an experience in fashion, that you do not like—something that is really difficult for you?
STEFANO GABBANA — I don’t like the corruption in the fashion system. I don’t like the fake. I don’t like it when everything is planned: one designer, one fashion group. When one designer, or one style, becomes one product, or one idea, it becomes generic. I don’t like to produce a fashion designer. That, more or less, is the thing I do not like about the fashion system. When I started out, it was about who made the best show. Now, people come to the show wearing black sunglasses and talk during 80% of it. I don’t understand that. Sometimes, I think, you understand it or not, you watch it or not. It’s a public relations event. Then, people look at your errors. If you make a mistake, or copy something, darkness looms. Twenty years ago people were very happy to come to fashion shows. It was a moment with models. We have one of the best jobs in the world: we work with beautiful people, beautiful minds, beautiful fabrics—it’s all about beauty. And yet there’s an angry attitude in the air during the shows. Once, it was about who made the best fashion show. Now, nobody cares what you make, or if you make a bad show. Let’s say I’m the fashion editor of a magazine: the number of ads you have in the magazine determines whether your collection is beautiful or not. This is a picture of the present moment. The best, however, is when you work directly with the customer, and you bypass the filters—the newspapers, magazines and buyers. The customer understands much better. They don’t have any other relation to fashion. They buy something because they like it, and that’s it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You had a lot of emotion in this show, and I can tell you that people really watched it. It was energetic, super sexy and surprising. Suddenly, the magic of the fashion show was there again.
STEFANO GABBANA — The last fashion show split the magazines. Half of them loved it, half hated it. As long as I’m happy, I’m satisfied. I come first. I don’t care so much if Suzy Menkes or The New York Times talks bad or good about it. I really don’t care, because I want to talk directly to the customer, not to the fashion reporters.

OLIVIER ZAHM —  Is your fashion democratic? Do you have direct access to the people?
STEFANO GABBANA — It’s an attitude that Madonna taught me years ago. She said the best thing is to bypass the filter and talk directly to the customer. The customer is purer. They don’t have business interests. They buy your jacket because they like it, not because of who you are. That’s why I don’t care about reviews anymore.

OLIVIER ZAHM —  The last show was so alive. It reminded me of the black and white film you did in one of your first shows, with Naomi Campbell and Eva, where it was obvious that the models had fun.
STEFANO GABBANA — We were lucky because it was a top model moment. I remember when we made the line up before the show: Linda, Christie, Naomi, Tatiana, Cindy, Jasmine, Nadja, Kate. Oh, my God, the girls! It was a unique moment, and we were lucky in a way because we worked with all of these girls.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The models were really happy and felt good to be sexy and free in your first shows. It’s an important sign. You create a special connection in fashion when the models are there for you.
STEFANO GABBANA — We didn’t have a lot of money to pay them, so we paid them half money, half clothes. They loved it. The mini dress, the bra, mini skirt. The must-have was the black bra.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Speaking about bra, twenty years later, you come back to a celebration of women’s sex appeal, with the corset and the deformation of the body.
STEFANO GABBANA — We decided on this collection in July. It was because we spent three weekends in St. Tropez, and we saw a lot of girls in really sexy moods again. We love sexiness, but it’s impossible to create sexy the same way every season. So we thought that maybe it was the moment to make something sexy the way it was 15 years ago.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Something extreme?
STEFANO GABBANA — Yes. We realized that we were in that kind of mood, but the information was coming from ordinary girls on the dance floor. We went to clubs a couple of times, and found that all the girls were in sexy moods—not just in sexy dresses. If you ask your average 25 year old woman today about Linda Evangelista wearing a black corset, they don’t know what you’re talking about.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, it’s a sexy attitude and energy that’s back now.
STEFANO GABBANA — Yeah, but it’s just a game. It’s not for sex.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Speaking about bra, twenty years later, you come back to a celebration of women’s sex appeal, with the corset and the deformation of the body.
STEFANO GABBANA — The Dolce & Gabbana sexy attitude is just an attitude : it’s more ironic and fun than provocative.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The shoes, which I wanted to buy for my girlfriend 2 years ago—the ones with the word “sex” in golden letters on the bottom—were the most brilliant, crazy, obviously provocative pair of shoes. For me, they were genius, because shoes are the ultimate half-for-work-half-for-sex fetish. Was this past collection successful?
STEFANO GABBANA — We sold a lot!

OLIVIER ZAHM — But your last summer collection is provocative in a way, because it’s a celebration, and an artificial deformation of the female body.
STEFANO GABBANA — There is so much in the magazines and on TV about aesthetic surgery. Everything is fake, fake, fake: new eyes, new lips, new breasts, new ass. Everything is plastic. I think it’s possible to play with this… maybe a woman would like to play with this idea in a body suit.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, she doesn’t have to have the surgery, she can just wear a new dress? Is this connection is a step into the next decade—like Balenciaga’s last show.
STEFANO GABBANA — Yeah, we’re in the same mood.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The press calls it futuristic. I don’t know about that, but it’s moving forward. Do you have any idea how Dolce & Gabbana will evolve?
STEFANO GABBANA — After 20 years, we’ve decided to change every season. Now I think we are sure about the taste and the style. But, I would like to go back to 15 years ago, to play with outfits: every season a new mood. This is the program. We have four or five points that are really safe. I love sexy, for example, but I love change, too.

OLIVIER ZAHM — This so-called “projection to the future” is actualy a step back to the late eighties.
STEFANO GABBANA — We got our inspiration from Vivienne Westwood, Alaïa, Thierry Mugler, Versace… We don’t hesitate, when it’s the case, to say that we have been inspired by others designers! It’s important not to copy. I don’t like copies, but inspiration is another thing altogether. So why not?

OLIVIER ZAHM — I would love to hear you speak about Fiorucci. This is someone the fashion world has forgotten.
STEFANO GABBANA — He’s my favorite. He’s still alive, but the brand is forgotten. Helio Fiorucci was not a practical man, but a very creative one. He grew and grew at the end of the 70s, the beginning of the 80s, he did not take control of his company, which is why it disappeared. Domenico might not agree with me. I was 18 years old when I discovered Fiorucci. I loved him so much.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Fiorucci is famous in Italy. He’s famous in America because of the clubs, right?
STEFANO GABBANA — Yes, Studio 54. There’s a song called the Greatest Dancer that goes “Halston, Gucci, and Fiorucci…” He was an icon. I collected the stickers and albums.

OLIVIER ZAHM — He’s still alive?
STEFANO GABBANA — Yes, and D&G is exactly Fiorucci today. I speak to him because I know him, and I thank him all the time because he inspired me. To me, D&G  is really inspired by Fiorucci.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Where is Dolce & Gabbana going now?
STEFANO GABBANA — When we started in the beginning we said that we wanted to be like Armani and Chanel: Chanel, because it was, and is, a really big fashion house where they make everything themselves. And, Armani for the determination, not for the style or the taste, but for the attitude and the direction.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Armani introduced Italian style to Hollywood; you introduced Hollywood style to Italy and Europe.
STEFANO GABBANA — Yes, we work with Hollywood people. But this is another thing. The system is full of corruption. If you want to dress somebody for the Oscars, you have to pay. You have to deal with the stylist, the manager, etc. I’ve never paid anyone to wear my clothes. If you like my clothes, you can wear them for free.


[Table of contents]

S/S 2007 issue 7

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