Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

Non-mod­els were used for Mi­lan Fash­ion Week in March 1986—a fab­u­lous trade­mark that con­tin­ues to­day. “Back then, we had no money to pay any of the mod­els,” re­calls Ste­fano. “We had friends do hair and make-up. We didn’t have shoes or bags at the time ei­ther, so we told the wom­enw to bring their own.”

A do-it-your­self spirit also per­vaded the show. Domeni­codomen says, “We used our own things to build the set. We brought blan­kets from our house to useus as the cur­tains for the stage. We had white­whit linens and bed sheets hang­ing from the roof—roand I still re­mem­ber that the sheets weren’twe long enough to touch the ground, so you would see the mod­els’ feet back­stage.”

A fac­tory in Florence sup­plied fab­ric free of charge in ex­change for cre­ative ideas from the pair. “I re­mem­ber we used wool with strips of sponge ma­te­rial [foam rubber] in­side,” says Ste­fano. “If you don’t have money, you move your brain. That Ital­ian no­tion is very sim­i­lar to the Chi­nese men­tal­ity. You have to move your hands and your brain.” Domenico adds, “When you do some­thing with heart, it’s be­cause you love it. You will do it with or with­out money— you will find a way to make it work.”

Cre­atively, the show was a suc­cess. “Many peo­ple still talk about this col­lec­tion,” says Ste­fano. A year later, the first store opened—and the brand be­gan to fly. “In the be­gin­ning, we started to sketch what we felt,” says Ste­fano. “We didn’t have a con­cept of what the mar­ket would want; we were just look­ing for our own style.” Iron­i­cally for a brand that is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with Italy, it achieved com­mer­cial suc­cess abroad be­fore catch­ing on in its home na­tion. In 1990, the brand was first ex­ported to Ja­pan and the US. Now it’s present in 40 coun­tries and the duo have be­come a barom­e­ter for trends in fash­ion and pop cul­ture.

Their di­verse achieve­ments in­clude cre­at­ing award-win­ning fra­grances, a cos­metic line, pub­lish­ing more than 20 books, re­leas­ing two records, shoot­ing their own ad cam­paigns, cus­tomis­ing Citroën cars, col­lab­o­rat­ing with Mo­torola on a mo­bile phone, pro­vid­ing wardrobes for the tours of Kylie Minogue and Madonna, and dress­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful foot­ball teams in the world, AC Mi­lan. Their as­so­ci­a­tion with sport is one of the clos­est in the fash­ion world, from dress­ing Chi­nese bad­minton play­er­pla Lin Dan to spon­sor­ing a box­ing team.

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