Dolce & Gabbana, Exposed
Givhan, Robin, Newsweek
Byline: Robin Givhan
The designers pick up the camera for their spring campaign.
There are arguably no other designers today who are as closely associated with a singular cultural tradition as Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce. Ever since they debuted their brand almost 30 years ago, they have allowed it to speak lovingly and proudly of Southern Italian tradition--specifically, the autonomous culture of Sicily where Dolce was raised.
So it is no surprise that the advertising campaign for their Spring 2013 collection, which was an ode to the region's street festivals, would have been photographed there. But for the first time, Dolce, 54, served as photographer. And Gabbana, 50, was the stylist of record. From the earliest sketches to their Fashion Week runway show and the final sales pitch to consumers, the aesthetic is wholly that of the designers.
"It's like when a movie director creates a movie. You start to look for a [setting] for the actors. We choose the music, the models. The last part is to shoot the -campaign--what we want to tell the audience," Gabbana says.
"To shoot the campaign is like when you make dinner, this is dessert," he says. "It completes the cycle."
Since the modern era of fashion advertising campaigns began, designers have exerted some degree of control over them. Yet despite their domineering tendencies, they typically turned over the final stage of building a brand message to an outside source. More than a few of those designer-photographer partnerships have led to memorable and controversial campaigns. Steven Meisel stirred up a hornet's nest in the mid 1990s when critics dubbed his Calvin Klein advertisements "kiddie porn." Bruce Weber was responsible for Calvin Klein's erotic Obsession fragrance ads. And Marc Jacobs has had a long relationship with Juergen Teller, whose ads for
the designer's signature label look like faded -Polaroids taken in a rec room
But now, more and more designers have stopped ceding that last bit of artistic power. The explanation is a matter of business, aesthetics, and emotion.
"We didn't have to teach to anyone what we want to do," Gabbana says. "I didn't have to explain what I feel."
The Milan-based designers followed the example of a host of well-known colleagues. Karl Lagerfeld has long clicked the shutter for Chanel. Tom Ford photographs both the men's and women's campaigns for his signature collection. Reed Krakoff, who returned to school to take photography classes, shot ads for Coach, including the memorable images featuring Finney, the Jack Russell terrier. (For the last few seasons, he hasn't had the time to be such a full--service designer.) And Hedi Slimane, who built a respected photography career after leaving the fashion industry, recently returned to helm Yves Saint Laurent and shot the campaign for his debut collection.
The shift is testament to the new role of designers as both businessmen and creative directors who are charged with overseeing everything from the shape of a brand's perfume bottle to the architecture of its global network of boutiques. …