"I like their designs because they make clothes for a womanly body," says Madonna about Italian fashion duo Dolce & Gabbana. "Most designers seem to be making clothes for girls with stick bodies who are flat-chested, but I always appreciate my own voluptuousness when I'm wearing their dresses."
Domenico Dolce (born August 13, 1958, in Palermo) and Stefano Gabbana (born November 14, 1962, in Milan) met when they were working for the same fashion designer in Milan. They held their first solo womenswear show in 1986, but it was not until Madonna
endorsed one of their shirts a present from her then beau Warren Beatty
in her movie Truth Or Dare: In Bed With Madonna,
that they started to become known to a wider audience.
The pair celebrate womanhood like no other designer but, given their Italian heritage, perhaps that is not so surprising. "We don't think only men can be powerful and strong," said Stefano in a 1999 interview. "Behind the heads of the Mafia, the leaders of culture, there are always very strong women. European culture is a matriarchy, especially in the south. The women have a lot of power." No wonder then, that their muses include the Queen of Pop, Victoria Beckham
and Italian actress Sophia Loren.
Indeed, it was a visit to Sicily at the end of the Eighties which was instrumental in crystallising their celebration of the curvaceous female form. Prior to that trip their garments had been fluid silhouettes in soft, elasticated fabrics, but a poster featuring a shapely brunette stopped them in their tracks. At that moment they realised that the woman snapped naked, save for a black shawl, on her sun-drenched Palermo terrace was who they were meant to be designing for.
In addition to their multi-million-dollar women's line, they also market Dolce & Gabbana jeans launched in 1996 and design menswear, underwear, shoes and swimwear, plus a range of fragrances for men and women. Their current diffusion line, D&G, was joined by a unisex diffusion collection called simply "&" in 2001.
The pair work in a 19th-century mini-villa in Milan and they have also renovated a house on the French Riviera. While for many years they were celebrated not only for their creative collaborations, but also for their long-running romance, the two decided to split up in early 2005. "On a professional level we are still together," explained Domenico. "We have a very strong love."