MILAN — Stefano Gabbana may have the Internet chattering over his tweeted photos of ducks mysteriously spotted in the garden of Dolce & Gabbana’s Milanese atelier, but this is one company that’s had its ducks in a row for a long time.
The brand is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its men’s wear line in June, and as part of that will launch a new men’s fragrance, The One Gentleman, this fall. The fragrance will build on Dolce & Gabbana’s successful scent portfolio under license to Procter & Gamble Prestige Products, and industry sources estimate it could do $100 million at retail globally in the first year.
Talking about what makes a gentleman, fashion, life and more, Gabbana was seated last week in his private office — housed behind a nondescript facade and the rich Baroque haven filled with Madonna memorabilia, art and heaving bookshelves, which could well fit the stereotype of a gentleman’s home. But it’s a scene Gabbana is quick to point out isn’t always what it seems.
“I think today’s definition of a gentleman is someone who takes care of himself and of the people around him. A father who looks after his children is a gentleman,” he said. “It’s a much wider concept, not only restricted to a man who lives in a villa with servants. I think a surfer can be a gentleman, too.”
While the scent may represent a luxurious, elegant and refined image, the brand is designed to mix that with a newfound simplicity. “When we talk about the words luxury and limited edition, it’s really all about living well. What I personally like right now is simplicity, and, for this reason, the bottle, the communication, the fragrance are simple,” said Gabbana, referring to the scent’s sleek gunmetal cap, clean contours and gray-blue juice.
The One Gentleman is the latest product from the designers under their licensing deal with the P&G Prestige Products arm, which was signed in December 2005. Luigi Feola, vice president of P&G Prestige Products, confirmed Dolce & Gabbana is now the division’s leading brand in terms of volume among a portfolio consisting of 23 licenses.
Conceding that P&G came up with the formulation of the scent, Gabbana said the creative process is about capturing a mood and a new olfactory category for the Italian fashion house. The One Gentleman has an understated oriental note, conceived to attract a sophisticated and confident consumer who places an emphasis on elegance. The fragrance opens with perky pepper notes. It has a subtle heart of lavender, fennel and cardamom, and a sensual base of patchouli and vanilla.
“We didn’t specify the ingredients, rather the sensation we wanted to create,” said Gabbana. “We asked the noses to re-create the feeling of elegance, an emotion that didn’t exist in our male fragrance collection.”
It appears as a straightforward, no-nonsense approach, almost at odds with the image of the fashion house known for its flash and smoldering sexiness. “Personally, I’ve no desire for anything complicated anymore. I’m not talking about fashion, but a style of living,” said Gabbana, who’s wearing a pair of jeans, a bottle-green cashmere sweater and worn-in brown leather boots and arrives directly from the atelier, where the designers are in the middle of preparing for September’s women’s wear show.
Despite the house’s men’s wear celebrations around the corner in June, there seems to be little time for looking back — at least, not yet. “It may sound superficial, but I’m not actually thinking of it. A few days before the anniversary hits, I’m sure I’ll feel nervous, but when the moment arrives, I won’t have the time to think about it,” explained Gabbana.
It’s almost a flippant response given the occasion, but a revealing one. “The difference between Domenico [Dolce] and I is that I’m more instinctive as a person and he is more reflective and pragmatic. I have a friend who refers to me as the ‘lightness of being.’ The truth is, I may act lighthearted, but, under the surface, I’m not — or I wouldn’t be where I am now,” he adds, getting up to check his iPhone.
One of the first designers to embrace Twitter, Gabbana is tweeting even as he discusses the brand’s heritage. “We started designing men’s wear 20 years ago with a very precise message. Through the years, also with women’s wear, we went down many different paths, but now we want to recap the situation, examine who and what Dolce & Gabbana is,” he said. “The desire of the consumer, our desire to do it and the desire for normality. It’s all a coincidence.”
Gabbana’s 140-character musings and visual sound bites — “I’m a fan of Twitter, and use it to record aspects of my life, not only to tweet about who is wearing Dolce & Gabbana” — aren’t restricted only to the contemporary, as he takes time to look back at some of the trends in men’s wear of the last two decades.
A book to commemorate Dolce & Gabbana’s 20 years of men’s wear will be published later this year, but don’t expect the term “metrosexuals” to appear in its pages. “The metrosexual man never existed, it’s not true. When we speak about men’s wear at the end of the Nineties, everybody smiles as they remember it as a bit gay, odd. It was fashion for a few. When we started working with David Beckham, and he started, as a heterosexual man, to develop his interest in fashion, it opened up the possibility to all men that they could dress up,” he noted. “Men had always stayed within strict men’s wear rules, and spontaneously they realized they could dress outside the rules, dress fashionably, without appearing to be something they were not. It was an evolution — of style and a way of living — but it didn’t originate from a word,” he asserted.
Gabbana’s openness and willingness to discuss matters he cares about is in contrast to Dolce, who channels his passion into the label’s designs. “Compared to Stefano, I’m shyer, and honestly a quiet person. I don’t really like talking about myself. I’d rather let my fashion speak for me,” Dolce said in an e-mail — appropriately sent from the atelier.
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