Italian of the Week

Dolce & Gabbana: from catwalk to courtroom

Dolce & Gabbana: from catwalk to courtroom
Stefano Gabbana (L) and Domenico Dolce established D&G in 1985. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
After nearly three decades building the global fashion brand D&G, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are now facing prison terms and, potentially, the end to their illustrious careers. They're our Italians of the Week.

Who are Dolce and Gabbana?

Sicilian Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, from Milan, are famed for creating the D&G fashion house, which since its founding in 1985 has expanded into 40 countries and in 2011 made €1.1 billion. The pair were jointly ranked as the 11th richest in Italy, behind former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and chocolatier Michele Ferrero. 

How did they find fame and fortune?

Dolce is the son of a tailor and grew up surrounded by chats about cloth and style. Gabbana's childhood in the country's fashion capital inspired him to enter the industry; by the time he met the D to his G the pair already had their minds set on creating collections.

The self-made millionaires met when Dolce was working as an assistant to a designer in Milan and Gabbana called to ask for a job. They agreed to meet at a party that night, the pair told The Telegraph newspaper, cringing at the memory of Dolce dressed up as a priest.

Gabbana forgave him for following the unusual fashion choice and their working relationship soon developed into romance.

This sounds risky; how did their relationship affect D&G?

The romance lasted for more than 20 years, until the pair separated in 2005. 

"When Domenico and I split up the sadness was in my heart and my mind, not my clothes…I was sad and it (wealth) didn't change my sadness into happiness," Gabanna told the Observer newspaper.

"The love story of me and Domenico is not finished, there are many different loves and now we are best friends," he added.

Dolce and Gabbana continue to work side by side; the continued success of the brand is testamant to their strength as a design duo.

Why are they in the news?

This week the pair swapped the catwalk for the courtroom, as they were found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to one year and eight months in prison. They were also ordered to pay a fine of €500,000 to Italy’s national tax agency, for transferring control of D&G to a shell company in Luxembourg, allegedly to avoid paying €200,000 in Italian tax.

Gabbana took to Twitter in April to protest his innocence: "All that I care about is making clothes, that's all. Let them do and say whatever they want. To be accused of something that's not true is not a pretty thing, but the heart of the matter is, who cares, we'll all end up in the ground in the end," he said.

Is this the end of D&G?

Under Italian law the sentence is suspended while Dolce and Gabbana appeal, so they won’t have to design their black and white stripes with matching ball and chain just yet. Besides, the pair have over 3,000 people working for them so the brand will continue if they are to take a ‘sabbatical’.

Who’s in their entourage?

Through their work Dolce and Gabbana have a habit of attracting the biggest names in music. Kylie, Madonna and the late Whitney Houston have all performed draped in D&G. This is no mean feat; Madonna’s 1993 world tour demanded 1,500 costumes. 

Last year the pair produced a book about young football players, with photographs taken by Dolce. They also sponsor A.C. Milan football club, ensuring a male and female following.

Do they do more than dresses?

Yes. Since their first self-produced collection and fashion show, Real Women, in 1986, the pair have expanded in every fashionable direction. The pair have produced books, perfumes, sunglasses and smartphone cases, to name but a few. In 2006 they opened the Dolce&Gabbana GOLD Restaurant in Milan, giving fashionistas the chance to show off their designer wear.

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