THE INTERVIEW: Dsquared2's Dean and Dan Caten
Dean and Dan Caten, above, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their fashion brand Dsquared2 in Dubai last month, at the One & Only Royal Mirage
ESQUIRE: You’ve just celebrated your 20th anniversary, congratulations guys.
Dan and Dean: Thank you.
ESQ: I don’t know if you remember, but I interviewed you both when you were in Dubai about eight years ago and I was thinking about then and now. What has changed?
Dean: Yes! Wow, that was a long time ago, and a lot has changed. We are expanding, we are putting out more retail, we have a restaurant, we have new headquarters, a new design studio in London, we have a reality show…
ESQ: I was trying to be cool and ignore the cameras that are in our faces right now, so they’re for your own show?
Dean: It’s just to prove we’re not partying all the time [laughs]. We don’t want people to have the wrong impression of us. Yes, it’s for our own show, you can watch it on our website.
ESQ: You guys do always seem to be having fun. It’s inspiring, but is it…
Dean: Do we ever work?
ESQ: I was going to say people take fashion so seriously, but you guys seem to have so much fun…
Dan: I think we are so fortunate to do a job that we like and be successful at it. It is not a job for us, it was our dream as children. Now we are living in our dream so there is not a lot to be sad about. We do get stressed and stuff; we just had three days of stress in the factory. We were there until 10 o’clock every night, but we’re not mad. We work better in the evening anyway. We are trying to make the most of it and cram in as much as we can into one day.
“As we get older, we’re getting even better at what we do” DAN CATEN
ESQ: You guys really do, because you’re hosting a talk in London tomorrow with Apple, right?
Dan: Yeah, the Apple talk. It’s really cool; it’s like a profession conversation inside the London Apple store that we’re hosting. People can come and ask us about anything. They did one before with Tom Ford, and some other really cool ones already, so we’re really excited about that.
ESQ: That’s an interesting departure for you.
Dean: Yeah, it’s also a bit scary because it’s a live audience. We’re better one on one — I mean we are fine with the camera, no problem, but real people asking us real questions in front of everybody so we get stomped on?
Dan: He gives the speeches, he’s better at it than I am.
ESQ: So people can ask you anything?
Dean: Yes, that’s the scary part. But I’m totally fine. We did once for a fashion school and it was really fun.
Dan: It was great.
Dean: Also, the people that come to see you, they won’t come because they hate you, they come because they like you. So, you know, it is kind of easy.
ESQ: The industry is so different now to when you first started out 20 years ago. Now it’s really important for a brand to create a world, which is something that you guys are really good at…
Dean: Yes, it is lot right now, actually. As we are growing and developing, we need help so we’re growing our teams. That is why we opened our new studio in London, so that we can have another team. We have, like, 10 collections to produce a year, so it’s a lot. It’s never ending. There is a lot of overlapping so we can’t really ever just focus on one thing. So now we have teams that start doing research and sketches and when we’re ready we take it from there, continue, finish and fine-tune everything.
Dan: We are getting there and building a support network around us that we trust, know us inside out and we don’t always have to be as hands on as we have been.
ESQ: Well I guess the benefit of being around for so long is that you can build a team around you who live and breathe the brand…
Dan: Yes, for sure. And that takes time.
ESQ: When you first started, did you ever think that you would still be around in 20 years’ time?
Dean: No, we didn’t, but we hoped we would be.
Dan: I think everybody hopes, but we are happy and proud we have gone this far. I think part of our longevity is we haven’t ever really exploded, we have always been taking deep, solid steps. Sometimes brands get so much hype and then you get so sick of hearing about them, and that’s really bad for a brand.
‘We do not rock hard, we rock steady.’ DAN CATEN
ESQ: You’re right, you never had a huge moment, you’ve been consistent, while quietly going from strength to strength…
Dean: I mean, it’s great for a brand to have ‘a moment’ but those moments don’t last. It is about balance. We have a saying: ‘We do not rock hard, we rock steady.’
ESQ: Your shows in Milan are always so much fun.
Dean: We love showing people a good time.
ESQ: Maybe that’s your secret to success?
Dan: And also there are two of us. Somehow it makes it easier, because you’re not taking it all on your own.
ESQ: I get it, I have a twin sister…
Dean: You get it. We are different people but we’re in this together, we can share the load.
ESQ: You seem to have the same enthusiasm now that you had when you started.
Dan: We do. We haven’t changed.
Dean: We are not fake. I think now because we are more established and have a bigger foundation, it is easier to do bigger and newer projects. We have the money to do a restaurant now so we did that, and we do other things on the side. We did a push in America last year, opening three stores in New York and Los Angeles, and we just opened stores in Kuwait and Doha.
Dan: Online business in the US is huge. They can just find the things on their own…
ESQ: You didn’t have to think about e-commerce 20 years ago…
Dan: It’s crazy. It’s great that you have more of a sense of who is buying.
Dean: We’re very popular with the younger generation and our brand is mostly bought by phone, which means the target is younger. You can now get a lot of information about where they are and also who they are.
ESQ: You’ve been present in Dubai for a long time too…
Dean: We were pioneers in this country.
Dan: I think we were invited early and so we realised early on that there is so much opportunity in the region.
ESQ: And the region understands you as a brand…
Dean: I don’t know but I hope so. I think they get us.
ESQ: And now you’re creating a new concept in your stores?
Dan: Yes, we have a new concept, it’s more mature. The elements are the same, which is still lots of wood, but it is more refined.
Dean: It’s a more elegant version of the original concept.
Dan: As we mature, the brand is maturing as well. We are getting a little older, and even better at what we do. We are still learning.
ESQ: You guys turned 50 last year…
Dean: Fifty is the new 30.
Dan: I think we’ve worked hard and now we want to have the time to enjoy what we have done.
ESQ: Reap the rewards of all the hard work.
Dan: We are getting into snowboarding, wakeboarding and surfing now; we’re doing more things.
Dean: And trying not to think that we have only 30 years left.
“We started our show just to prove we’re not out partying all the time” DEAN CATEN
ESQ: Having a big birthday is also a good time to reflect.
Dan: Totally. What did we do? What did we contribute? What were we responsible for?
Dean: I mean we wandered off a little bit in a couple of collections, but we are more focused now than ever.
ESQ: Any highlights of the last 20 years?
Dan: I think building the headquarters is probably one of the great things.
Dean: The showroom, the offices, the restaurant…
ESQ: I always go there for drinks every Milan Fashion Week.
Dean: I think we’re proud that we are pioneers in this industry too. You have so many cool rooftop pool bars in London and LA, like Soho House, but none in Milan. The restaurant is something that we wanted to do, and didn’t really exist in Milan. We love going to the pool, having a drink, listening to music and just hanging out with our friends.
ESQ: It always has a great crowd there, too.
Dan: We needed it ourselves so we made it happen. We want to make a guest house, too, in the same building.
Dean: So then people can come, have great food, and then stay, have a suite and hang out. That’s what Donatella did to Madonna — made her party with her and then she couldn’t leave. That’s what we want to do — make
people stay and never leave.
Dsquared2 is at The Dubai Mall, +971 4 339 8709