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MILAN — Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have always held strong to their Sicilian roots, so when it came time to create a men’s retail experience, the duo once again turned to La Sicilia, allowing the island’s warmth and richness to seep into their first men’s flagship.
This story first appeared in the January 31, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Opened recently in a landmark 19th-century palazzo in Corso Venezia here is Dolce & Gabbana’s newest lifestyle incarnation: an 18,000-square-foot store dedicated to the duo’s signature line and studded with such amenities as an adjacent bar and lounge, a barber shop and a full-service grooming facility. It’s part Mediterranean zest, part baroque richness and part sexiness, and the next frontier of the brand’s odyssey.
“We didn’t want to create just another boutique because that would be too fashion, too design, for our male clients,” Gabbana said following a preview of the store. “Rather, we wanted something very masculine, something truly new. It’s really more of a gentlemen’s club than a store.”
The team turned to architect David Chipperfield to render a modern space that maintained the integrity of the palazzo’s original vaulted and frescoed ceilings, parquet floors and stone staircase. Meanwhile, interior designer Ferruccio Lavianni added a dark masculine touch with smoked glass tables, hand-lacquered American walnut furnishings, baroque gilded thrones and curvy divans covered in black velvet.
Covering three floors and connected by a center courtyard, the store offers more than just Dolce & Gabbana’s streamlined martini suits and croc loafers. It actually provides the martini to go along with the clothes, thanks to the adjoining bar, which came about through collaboration with the designers and Italian spirits company Martini & Rossi. Black marble, black wood and aluminum coat the 1,400-square-foot bar, while a red mosaic serpent slithering across the floor adds an appropriate dose of color.
Moving from the bar across the courtyard are a retro barbershop and a grooming salon. Inspired by Sicilian barbers, the green marble shop provides old-fashioned razor and soap shaves, traditional cuts, fragrant masques and manicures. The grooming facility takes on a minimal feel in white Carrera marble and steel. Open to men and women, the spa offers weary shoppers some rest and relaxation, with facials and massages.
The selling space, paved in gray basalt stone and accented in black glass, is split over three floors. Runway looks are the focus of the ground floor and for clients unable to get into the show, the designers installed a plasma screen that continuously shows the latest Dolce & Gabbana catwalk show.
The second floor is dedicated entirely to the designers’ growing accessories line. A black glass stage with movable blocks forms the centerpiece of the floor and provides an evolving landscape to showcase their coated canvas and python mail bags and iguana shoes.
The pièce de résistance is the third floor, with black marble fireplaces, a pastel frescoed ceiling and a 550-pound black Murano glass chandelier among the ultraluxe details. The floor offers classic suits in its Wall Street room, handmade suits in its tailoring department and an expansive sportswear section. Throughout the individual rooms are niches and hidden drawers holding everything from neckwear and dress shirts to tank tops.
The fitting rooms on this floor give enough space for a man to get undressed. But if putting shoes back on is too exhausting, there’s a smaller lounge off the fitting room area, which is equipped with a waitress and stocked with bourbons, champagnes and whiskeys.
The designers wanted not only to create a club feeling but something truly personal and lived-in, so they brought in matching antique, oversized Chinese vases from their private collection.
“The store is really about providing our clients with a home setting,” Gabbana said. “We wanted to re-create how a man lives and the environment in which he lives.”
While the designers said there are plans to duplicate this store in other cities, namely New York, they also admit it’s going to be a challenge.
“The beauty of the store is the palazzo and its various rooms,” Gabbana said. “It’s not going to be easy finding a similar setting in New York, but we’re certainly going to try.”