One Half of Italy's Most Glamorous Design Team Tells Us About Their New Men's Store
Profession: Fashion Designer
It's rare for fashion designers to open dramatic stores dedicated to their men's collections, but Italians Dolce & Gabbana have just bucked the trend with a three-storey men's boutique housed in a former Milanese palazzo which dates back to the first half of the 19th century.
Stefano Gabbana, who with Domenico Dolce created the label, knows that they are breaking fresh ground: "It's a really new concept in the fashion world to have a big store just for men. We dreamed not of a shop but of a men's club - a bit like an English gentlemen's club. It's for giving pleasure to men, men of all ages."
Stefano believes that the time is right for this move: "For centuries nobody talked about new fashion for men, but there has been a silent revolution: men have a new attitude to clothes. For me this is the new groove for the fashion business - there's development in menswear, even more so than in womenswear."
So the duo have conceived something of a playground for the visiting male customer: the three floors house not only the fashionable elements of the Dolce & Gabbana collections - the trends of the season - but also the growing accessories collection of bags, belts, shoes and eyewear. On the third floor there are three rooms of suits and a lounge with sofas and chairs where clients can have a drink between fittings.
"We were lucky to find a palace like this - antique and protected," says Stefano. "We restored it and found a lot of paintings on the walls. We respect the past but have added some Dolce & Gabbana style." So along with the original frescoes, parquet floors, travertine fireplaces, stuccoes and fixtures, you'll find architect David Chipperfield's dark grey basaltina stone floors and staircase and the distinctive interior design of architect Ferruccio Laviani: grooved lacquered walnut wardrobes, huge black chandeliers by Murano, modern mirror tables and black velvet dressing rooms.
At the back of the ground floor is a typical Italian piazza, and this is what really makes the store unique. On the left is a barber's shop, run by Giovanni Pappalardo from the Sicilian town of Gela. Stefano recently took a place in one of the period leather barber's chairs: "I went last week to have my hair cut - he cut really well. I don't have a lot of hair on my face so I didn't need the shave, but he cut my hair in the old style."
At the back of the square is a grooming salon in clinical white Carrara marble, with six treatment rooms for anything from massages to facials. "I'm going next week," says Stefano - it's always booked! In Italy it's really hard for a man to find a spa for a facial or a shoulder wax - there's not one in Milan. Many men are embarrassed to go to a women's place - but funnily enough, our place has attracted a lot of women too."
Finally, along the right-hand side of the piazza is a bar which the designers have opened in collaboration with Martini e Rossi. It's attracting a hip crowd, who nestle in the black leather sofas.
Stefano says the only problem is that now he and Domenico want to replicate this shopping and lifestyle formula around the world. "We were lucky with the building, but it may be more difficult to find something similar in London, New York, Paris and Tokyo." Let's hope they know some good estate agents.
The new Dolce & Gabbana men's store is at Corso Venezia 15, Milan (+39 02 76 02 84 85)
By Peter Howarth