Thirty-five years later, Dolce & Gabbana has become a global brand that communicates the joy of being alive, eroticism and carefreeness and which, after the unfortunate incident in China, is trying to reorient itself to the contemporary world. Any kind of intellectualism is long gone, and the dynamic duo has managed to tell simple stories in an understandable way, certainly with the risk of banalising the narrative but with the result that sales have topped a billion euros, and they have also begun to open stores in China again.
I’m afraid the nostalgia buffs who would like to see the black guêpières of the good old days, and the Sicilian widow’s dresses back on their catwalks will have a long wait, the time has come to reflect on the possibility (or impossibility) that this brand will recover its relevance for the fashion world.
Watching the men’s fashion show for winter 2022, one could say that they are making a little progress but that they have a long road ahead of them. Excess for the sake of excess doesn’t seem to be very significant for this historical time. Still, in a circus of prints, graffiti, embroidery, and loud music pumped out by Machine Gun Kelly, some elements burned with intensity, indicating something that is changing – more on the outside of the brand than on the inside.
First of all, the brand itself, Dolce & Gabbana, in all its variations as a logo or as a simple inscription, harks back to a mythological age (Y2K) in which distinctly separated male and female roles were narrated through sculpted physiques, open eroticism and a simplification of language which today isn’t even remotely conceivable. Objectified men and women protagonists of their own lives–thanks entirely to the endowments they received from nature–are the flip side of the coin of awareness and empowerment. Today these are romantic concepts that can be compared to those of Tarzan and Jane. The younger generations don’t view this with nostalgia but with sincere curiosity simply because they are not used to a message having that level of bi-dimensionality.
Today a t-shirt bearing the D&G logo in big letters on a ripped male physique has become aesthetic archaeology, and may be considered an interesting source for reflection.
In this sense, Dolce & Gabbana is the ideal brand to explain the “dolce vita” of the 90s while making it clear that the concept is no longer applicable, but it could still be an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
The second interesting element (we already spoke about this in the review of Jordaluca) is the coexistence of entirely different and opposite languages within the same discourse. Formal and streetwear, constructed and sporty, masculine and feminine, serious and delirious, simple and maximalist. Over the years, Dolce & Gabbana have won for themselves the freedom to range across the entire spectrum of menswear while never falling into the banality of everyday life. They built an imaginary world in which the protagonists are Marvel superheroes who have forgotten to have a double identity, and are keeping their stage clothes on even when they’re at dinner with their girlfriends or in a meeting with a board of directors. Removing all the in-between steps leaves only the extremes. And if that would have been considered hard to sell some time ago, today is actually why people are attracted by this brand. This kind of maximalism is both semiotic and ethical, in a world where normality no longer interests anyone, in apparent and open contradiction with the first point above.
The third thing to be observed is optimism, which today is a word empty of meaning and is only used to sell diapers in supermarkets and on TV shows to convince elderly ladies that winning a 150 euro coupon is awesome. Optimism isn’t, of course, the key to happiness, but as with extreme simplification, it’s a concept that has dropped off the radar screen and whose meaning we struggle to recognise. Dolce & Gabbana have built an empire on this word, a million light-years away from the bitter reflections of Balenciaga or the cartoonish, hallucinated world of Gucci. In this case, too, they are the ideal brand to bring back this concept to the centre of the discussion and redefine it.
No one can know whether this semiological examination of the brand corresponds to an actual, conscious strategy, but personally, if I had to point to a project that still has immense potential today, I would say it’s Stefano and Domenico’s. Together with Giorgio Armani. But that’s another story.