WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
2020 marks not only a new decade, but also the 25th birthday of DSQUARED2. Sexy and provocative yet still chic and sophisticated, the brand is best known for its mix of playful bold slogans and distressed denim. As the brand gets closer to its thirties it’s only getting better with age, maturing like a fine wine to include refined Italian men’s tailoring and opulent women’s gowns alongside its more youth-centric offerings. Here, we take a look back at the history of fashion’s greatest purveyors of ‘va-va-voom sex appeal’.
WHO OWNS DSQUARED?
DSQUARED2 was started by identical twin brothers Dean and Dan Caten – the double D’s that make the brand’s name. Italian-by-way-of-Canada, they were born and raised in Toronto by their English mother and Italian father. It would be this mix of cultures that would inspire the twin’s desire to return to their motherland and later come to define their brand motto, even if their dad shortened his original family name of Catenacci to Caten just to fit in. The youngest of nine children, their siblings also left an indelible impact on the young impressionable twins – they were the disco queens, rock’n’rollers and hippies who would influence and inspire their worldview.
One thing must be made clear, the brothers do everything together. The longest they’ve been separated is just six months. Today, they still live together in a house in Notting Hill where they share a bedroom, except that is when one of them has a special guest over.
The Caten duo would go on to study together at New York’s prestigious Parsons School for Design, dropping out after one semester. Even still, they realised the fashion industry was where they belonged. Returning home to Toronto, they got their first jobs together as junior assistants at Ports International 1961, where they would eventually become joint head designers. It’s here, where under the guidance of a mentor, they would learn the art of cut and sew, refining the skillset and gaining the self-belief that would propel them to the top of the fashion world in the future.
WHERE IS DSQUARED MADE?
In 1991, Dean and Dan felt the urge to explore their Italian roots and moved to Milan. After stints with Gianni Versace and Diesel, it would be the latter who would help them fund and launch their namesake brand. And so, in 1992, the world was introduced to DSquared, the premium denim label who’s well-cut, heavily distressed and reassuringly expensive jeans would take over the 90’s fashion.
With the brand motto of ‘Born in Canada, Living in London and Made in Italy’, you know exactly where DSquared comes from, and where it’s at now. DSquared still shows at Milan Fashion Week, and continues to be made in Italy either directly through suppliers or in partnership with prominent Italian manufacturers - Marcolin create their eyewear, Isa their swimwear and underwear, whilst ITF Cosmetics is behind their fragrances, and Staff International produces their ready-to-wear. Wondering how to spot a fake DSquared hat? If it’s made outside of Italy then that’s a big warning sign.
If you’re questioning DSquared’s Italian pedigree, just know that there’s not much else more important to Italian men than their football team, and in 2008 DSquared were chosen to design the official uniforms for Juventus, something Palace Skateboards would do ten years later in 2018. Pioneers.
ME AGAINST THE MUSIC
The Caten brothers see DSquared2 as an extension of their ever changing identities, and with experience working in Milan’s club scene, music plays a big part in this.
Officially launching as a menswear brand in 1994, it wouldn’t be until 2003 that the brand would expand to include womenswear, after creating 150 pieces for Madonna’s ‘Drowned World Tour’. In fact, the Caten’s would provide tour clothing for all three of the pop triumvirate that ruled the airways during the early noughties, dressing both Christina Aguilera for her ‘Stripped’ tour, and Britney for ‘The Circus Starring Britney Spears’ alongside the queen of pop. If you watched MTV during the first decade of the millenium, then it’s likely you saw DSquared in quite a few of them too. Cool fact: Dan and Dean had a cameo in the music video for Fergie’s (from Black Eyed Peas) ‘Clumsy’.
CELEBRITIES AND CATWALKS
Just as iconic on the catwalk, as off it, DSquared’s runway shows have become notorious for their grandeur and star-studded cameos. And after watching their debut runway show, you can see they started by setting the bar dizzyingly high.
The twins spent €750,000 (which they didn’t have) on casting for their debut FW03 womenswear show. But it was totally worth it. As industry insiders and the brand’s most devoted fans gathered around the red carpet, and under the pink aeroplane that formed it’s catwalk set, they were greeted by Naomi Campbell and Karolina Kurkova strutting their stuff with characteristic attitude. Cameras in hand, the fans went wild, and so did the whole fashion industry. The high energy spectacle was fun and wild, just like DSquared. A new precedent was set. DSquared had pulled off something unimaginable for what was still then an emerging brand, cementing itself as the brand to watch.
The brand’s love affair with the theatrical and celebrities continues to this day. For their 2005 show, Christina Aguilera stripped male models. In 2007, Rihanna made her catwalk debut, driving a muscle car onto the runway. Their set designs have seen tropical waterfalls, madhouses, and even a full-sized replica of Glastonbury remade in Milan. And that’s not mentioning the red carpets, where DSquared remains the brand of choice for your favourite celebrities. Kanye West, Justin Bieber and George Clooney have all been papped wearing it.