Brothers Dan and Dean Caten have created one of the most respected and hip brands in Dsquared2. With a slew of stores set to open in North America, and their baby line and fragrances doing well, the two wonder what’s left to conquer. We have an idea. An excerpt:
The backstage of a major fashion show the day before it hits the runway is—as one would expect—controlled chaos of the umpteenth degree. The models are moved around with as little modicum of acknowledgement that they’re human beings as the law allows. Clothes are frenziedly altered and draped; music is blasted as adrenaline shapes the tempo. Mood boards, the visual development of the collection, glare out as the creative ambition for the designers and the models to obey. Looks, their pace and placement in the fashion show, are fretted over and “changes”—the madness of this volatile collaborative project—are the fire that maddens many and fuels others. Tempers are short and, with buyers, the world’s press and celebrities in the FROW (front row for the uninitiated), the pressure is enormous. It’s for these reasons that press and public are almost never invited to experience these final days of a collection’s runway debut: they can show the fugly side of brands in what should be their most triumphant moment.
So it came as a surprise that Esquire was invited to the latest Dsquared2 AW14 collection in Milan on said cusp, to meet the creators and drivers of the brand: identical twin brothers Dan and Dean Caten. “Babe, you’re not going to lose him right? He’s Cuban, he’ll be all right,” Dan hollers across the space where a massive jail has been constructed—real prison bars bisecting the space, while buffed-to-perfection models await commands, as photos are taken and sent to an iMac for scrutiny. “She’s not in jail!” Dean says at another vignette of activity, his wiry frame and attractive salt-and-pepper hair in thick contrast to his Peter Pan-like energy. The two, obeying their own inner conjoined voice, look at each other and shrug, with Dan lifting an eyebrow in a “whatever” gestural cue. This is their element, their crucible of fun, where they thrive. “We love doing shows,” Dan says. “Some people, journalists in particular, pick on us about it. ‘Stop all the f**king barks and whistles and bells, and just do fashion!’ We enjoy fashion, and we want to see fashion, but you come to our shows and we’re going to put it in an environment of something that we enjoy doing. It’s our reward for doing a collection that we get to have a bit of fantasy in,” he explains of the now famous runway shows that Dsquared2 have become known for. “It’s like a school project,” Dean, the slightly chattier of the two, adds. “And I think it’s entertaining for someone who isn’t so fashion obsessed. It’s a bit of everything!"
All above: the AW14 show went Jailhouse Rock.
The theme of the season about to presented, incarceration (a previous show referenced Glastonbury with a five-inch layer of mud as the catwalk), plays on the theatricality and odd whimsy that the brand has created for its burgeoning fan base—a club which has been building from superstars down to denim heads and LGBT fashionistas—and, with a slew of stores opening in North America, the ultimate retail battleground for any brand, mass appeal. They have an almost uncanny ability to bridge worlds that other designers only dream of: Kayne West and Justin Beiber are fans and have appeared on Dsquared2’s red carpet, as have George Clooney and Justin Timberlake. Madonna’s 2000 decision to have them style 150 pieces for her Drowned World Tour, after appearing in their jeans for her “Don’t Tell Me” video, shifted the attention from menswear to womenswear, an evolution that made Dan and Dean the darlings of Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and other style bibles. On a fashion level, it can be said they discovered Rihanna, putting her on the catwalk at the tender age of 19 in a hot rod that screeched up on stage and made Dsquared2 an even hotter brand than it already was. They’re so imbedded with the musical celebrity class at this point that they’ve starred in a number of videos, including Fergie’s “Clumsy” and The Black Eyed Peas “I’ve Got a Feeling”. They’ve almost gone beyond fashion to become cultural icons. Turnover last year was RM631 million, up 10 percent year on year. Clearly, the boys are happy.
“We’re really peaking. We just opened a restaurant as well,” Dean begins, taking a moment out from the mayhem. “We’re doing a big push in the US, and opening Los Angeles and New York in December... Miami is still iffy, because they haven’t signed, but it’s great, all good,” he says of their success, one that’s built on the incredible focus they have on making their products great. Some would attribute that to their unusual relationship, one that sees them doing everything together, even sleeping in the same bed (they have another room for, ahem, overnight guests). “We always share everything, but one will do something and the other something else, and then we’ll get together. We’re always together and that’s the best thing,” he exclaims with a resonant sense of relief. “We can be lying in bed and talking about what we did all day. With other teams, they go their separate ways. It stays with us. We’re 24 hours. I mean, I woke up this morning, thinking about the show, and I turned around and said, ‘I think we need this and we need that.’ I think we get lots done for that reason,” he says of their ethereally connected power.
Words by Sam Coleman.