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.