ROME – Italian fashion designer moguls Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are no strangers to criticism. In late February, the duo made the family the star of their runway, staying true to their Italian roots in family, femininity, and religion.
Plenty of times they have had to wrestle with contrary Hollywood beliefs, but to all those who don’t agree, Gabbana says simply: “Go to hell!”
Dolce was born in the 3,500-soul town of Polizzi Generosa on the Italian island of Sicily. When he was seven he worked in the shop with his father, a tailor. Gabbana was born in Milan, where for a while he cleaned toilets and washed floors to help his mother who worked at a laundry service.
The two met in 1980 and began a voyage that led them to becoming one of, if not the most influential and quintessential clothing brands of the 2000s.
The duo, now amicably separated, came out as gay years ago, and since then were the poster children for homosexual self-made-men. This was until 2015, when the designers spoke candidly to the Italian magazine Panorama about traditional family, religion, and gay marriage.
“Family is not a passing fad,” Gabbana said in the interview before Dolce chimed in. “We did not invent the family. The Holy Family made it into an icon, but it’s not a question of religion or social status: when you are born, you have a father and a mother,” Dolce said.
“This is why I am not convinced by those I call the chemistry kids, the synthetic children. Surrogates and semen chosen from a catalogue,” he added.
When the interviewer asked whether they had ever wanted to be parents, Gabbana answered promptly “yes, I would have a child right away.” Dolce, the more conservative of the two – let’s not forget that he comes from the south – took a different position.
“I am gay, I cannot have a child. I believe that one cannot have everything in life, if it’s not there it means it’s not meant to be. It’s important to deprive oneself of something,” Dolce said and continued, “Life has a natural path, there are some things that should not be changed. And one of these is family.”
For Dolce and Gabbana, family has been front and center of their ad campaigns and their clothing lines. In 2013 the brand launched the #DGfamily initiative, collecting pictures of hundreds of families wearing their designs and from all over the world.
Dolce is the southern and more traditional half of the company. Together with Gabbana’s forward looking designs they capture the essence of Italy, beautiful scenery caught between ancient roots and modern-day progress.
Needless to say, many were offended by the remarks by the founders of the Italian brand. Sir Elton John, who is married to David Furnish, took the statements in the interview personally, having had children through in vitro fertilization.
“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic.’ And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children,” the English songwriter wrote under a picture of his two children on Instagram. “Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions.”
I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again,” he said.
How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic”. And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana
John then proposed a boycott of the brand, and was quickly followed by starlets and television personalities such as Courtney Cox and Ricky Martin. The hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana was trending for months, though it is safe to assume that most people who participated in the boycott could not afford the costly D&G frocks anyway.
For many people it’s difficult to be seen as conservative in college, never mind in the fashion business. After some resistance, Dolce and Gabbana issued an apology to those who were hurt because of their words. A year later the brand issued a bag featuring gay parents and children.
Dolce and Gabbana continued to promote families. and especially mothers on their catwalks and commercials. Throughout 2015 and 2016 they dedicated entire shows to “Mamma,” the Italian word for mother. Most Italians will admit to having some mama’s-boy in them, and the campaign was a success.
The brand wasn’t economically hurt by the boycott, as the company finished the year 2015 with a sensational $1 billion revenue.
Even the religious theme was showcased in their 2016 fashion lines, showing the beloved Italian actress Monica Bellucci wearing ‘cardinal red’ and surrounded by clergy. Byzantine art and icons were the inspiration for shimmering golden dresses, a tribute to Italy’s artistic patrimony.
But the D&G boycott had a resurgence recently due to comments on social media. This time it was Gabbana to come under fire, when he posted a photo on Instagram of Melania Trump wearing the brand for the official White House portrait.
The caption read “BEAUTIFUL” followed by several heart emoji. Needless to say the Internet pounced to attack criticizing the brand for supporting a president, although indirectly, that many perceive as opposed to LGBTQ rights.
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This time, Gabbana wasn’t having it.
As various online posters swore never to purchase his brand again, the designer wrote: “I don’t care. Really!!” When a person wrote, “Sad when a gay designer doesn’t care about other groups being repressed,” Gabbana shot back, “Don’t call me gay please!! I’m a man!!! Who I love is my private life.”
Dolce and Gabbana have kept true to their vision and art for years by trying to capture the soul of Italy and its traditions. To all those who don’t get it Gabbana again replies, “Go to hell!”