There aren’t many designers as well-known as Dolce & Gabbana. The Sicilian duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, have been churning out clothes since 1985 and are now one of the biggest fashion houses in the world with currently over 250 boutiques around the globe. They banked around Dhs4.77 billion last year, despite being one of the world’s most counterfeited labels, but don’t take themselves too seriously. Gabbana likes to regram the funniest fake odes to their brand on his Instagram account, @stefanogabbana, followed by a string of hysterically laughing emoticons. But back to the clothes. If you see a dapper gent on the red carpet, chances are he’ll be wearing a D&G suit. Liam Hemsworth, Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum are all fans of the duo’s razor sharp suits. But this season the Italian designers have decided to focus on making all men look as sharp as the screen stars, and not just those with chiselled arms, toned abs and round-the-clock personal trainers. They’re doing this by launching their first atelier for bespoke menswear, Dolce & Gabbana Sartoria.
The service, which could change the face of designer menswear altogether, is housed in a 16th-century palazzo on the corner of Corso Venezia and Via della Spiga in Milan’s Quadrilatero d’Oro shopping quarter. Next door is Dolce & Gabbana’s men’s shoe boutique, women’s accessories boutique, the company’s multibrand Spiga 2 store, plus its Barbiere barbershop, Beauty Farm spa, and Martini Bar and Bistrot (where the duo watched Italy’s World Cup games this summer with their mates). The location itself is impressive enough – just being in Italy helps – but inside it gets even better. Iconic mid-century modern and neoclassic furniture sits on polished marble and parquet flooring. Venetian glass chandeliers from influential glassware designer, Ercole Barovier, hang from high ceilings. A 140-bulb Palmengarten light fixture frames the centre room, while more rooms are filled with works by Italian architect and designer Gio’ Ponti. All of this impressive décor sets the scene for the exceptional tailoring service, which not only allows men to choose an impeccably cut and perfectly-portioned suit from their own choice of fabric, but encourages each gent to embrace his own creative flair by allowing even the smallest of minute detail to be customised. This is no average tailoring service.
As well as traditional suits, tuxedos and morning suits, men can also opt for a bespoke Sicilian three-piece suit, coat, overcoat, cashmere scarf, shirts, T-shirts and even polo-shirts, all handmade to perfection. Dolce &
Gabbana Sartoria is about the creating the perfect bespoke wardrobe, and nothing is left behind. “Every man lives in a world of his own, with completely different characteristics to anyone else,” says Stefano Gabbana, explaining why their team of tailors meticulously measure each client. “Our suits enhance the strong points of the male body. This is only possible thanks to our knowledge of the human body, which is based on a near anatomical study that is crucial for creating garments that fall perfectly.”
Each suit jacket alone takes 25 hours of work, using traditional tailoring techniques passed down through the decades as well as from the fathers of both designers. Even the cut of the fabric is a well-thought-out starting point: the weave and texture of the material are cut by hand with the upmost impeccable precision. “Cutting fabrics has always been an obsession of mine,” admits Domenico Dolce. “I remember watching my father when I was young and how he was able to transform the body with a suit. Only many years later, I discovered the master workmanship and expertise that was behind his work and how it all began with the cut of the fabric.”
The next step in the bespoke jacket process is the making of the inside canvas, made from wool and horsehair and used on the inside of the chest and lapels. In some areas the canvas is reinforced with camel hair, which, rather than using actual camels (don’t worry!), is made from combining sheep hair with twisted thread. “When my father taught me how to make a jacket I saw it almost as a revelation,” continues Dolce. “That’s when I discovered the hidden world inside it, made of stitches, horsehair canvas, padding and much more. It’s an invisible world beneath the lining.” The armhole, shoulders and internal lining are also all sewn by hand, as well as the cut on the sleeve. The collar, the under collar patch, and the jacket’s lapels are fixed using cross-stitching, while the trousers and waistcoat are made using the half stitch technique, also by hand. “Our trousers have always been characterised by a slim fit. What changes is the height of the crotch, which can create different styles and fits,” explains Dolce, which will comfort any gent not entirely comfortable with Dolce’ & Gabbana’s typically slim leg.
Finally, when having a suit made, clients are encouraged to get creative with their buttonholes, which are made at the atelier using an antique method that has again been passed on through the generations. Each one is created individually, cut one by one, directly on the fabric of the suit, and then hand-finished. “The quality of a dress is achieved by the various techniques, but at the end of the day it all comes down to unique details,” Gabbana says simply, before giving an example of this approach. “When talking about a man’s jacket, one of the most important of these details are the buttonholes.”
It’s a far cry from their A/W14 collection, which was officially inspired by Sicilian history and the Romans. This led journalists to liken it to the Game of Thrones costumes, even though both designers have never seen the show. Although to be fair to the press, sweatshirts adorned with images of Norman kings (who invaded Sicily in the 11th Century) and a print of their suits of armour decorating a spectacular shearling were both reminiscent of George R. R Martin’s fantasy tale. That show, held in Milan last January, was closed by bearded model, Tony Ward, who, at 51-years-old, is the same age as Gabbana (Dolce is four years older). As the duo approach their 30th year in the industry, they have managed to ensure that they are relevant for men of every age. “When I sketch, I think about what I want to wear, but mostly I think about fashion,” explains Gabbana. “Our prints in the A/W14 collection are for younger men and they look great. But there are things that now, at 51, I cannot wear. I prefer to stick to a perfect polo.” Which is where a bespoke service comes in extremely handy.