MILAN — Their 18-year friendship with Madonna wasn’t enough to ease the fears that Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce had about doing something “more business-y” with the pop icon.

“We were always afraid it would ruin our relationship,” contended Gabbana.

Not anymore. As part of a flurry of activity between the designers and Madonna, including the filming of the “Celebration” video inside Metropol, the designers’ Milanese runway venue, she agreed to appear in the Dolce & Gabbana spring campaign.

This story first appeared in the December 17, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Steven Klein snapped the eight black-and-white, horizontal pictures in a former lay convent in uptown Manhattan. They will appear in groups of two or three to better display the reportage effect. A budget for the campaign, which breaks in February fashion titles, wasn’t available, though Gabbana described the investment as a “serious one.”

The shoot mirrors the mood of the designers’ sexy spring show, brimming with heritage Dolce & Gabbana staples and romantic accoutrements. “The collection is very Italian, very Sicilian,” said Gabbana. “It’s a return to our roots with a modern angle, so we asked Madonna to interpret it in a different and human way. We believe that people are ready for a new message.”

That message has Madonna playing a housewife, albeit a sensual one, carrying out her daily chores. Madonna appears holding a broomstick, washing dishes in a bubble-filled sink, eating spaghetti with her fingers and chopping vegetables, surrounded by lace curtains and tablecloths, dishcloths and old wooden furniture.

For the campaign, Madonna chose a number of looks, including crocheted tops and dresses, floral skirts and leopard spots, which she mismatched to her taste.

During a brainstorming session before the shoot (Gabbana marveled at how well versed Madonna is on old Italian movies), they all agreed on Luchino Visconti’s film “Bellissima” as an inspiration. Released in 1951, the neorealist film stars Anna Magnani and Walter Chiari.

In one shot, Madonna even appears as a latter-day Magnani, gazing off-camera with tear-smoldered cheeks. “She really cried, she really dipped into the part and took it very seriously,” gushed Gabbana.

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