These twin designers are way too hip to be squared
Story by Liz Black / Photography by Ryan Schude
DSQUARED2, the brand created by impish twins Dean and Dan Caten, is rising from European mainstay to global superstardom. The duo, who were born in Toronto as the youngest of nine children, moved to Milan in 1991 and launched their initial menswear collection in 1994. Now residing in London, they are planting their brand’s seeds in countries that are less familiar with their name. With the launch of a sunglasses line, a TV show on Bravo airing in September, and a radio show on SIRIUS’s channel BPM that began in May, DSQUARED2 is poised to be a label on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s closets. While Dean was swamped with filming, Dan snuck away to gush about everything from reality TV to their plans to make over the typical American man.
What can we expect to see on your show?
You’re just going to have to see it. Fashion! And Fashion! I can’t talk too much about it, but I can tell you that much. It’s a fashion reality show — a judging and a hosting show. It’s about people who want to create a collection, digging through it, and it’s fun. It’s interesting. There are a couple characters, so it’s going to be funny.
When did you start filming?
We’ve been in Los Angeles for a month. We film the finale this week, and then we’re done. It’s going well, better than we expected. It’s a different kind of life, a different world for us. We’re loving it. We worked really hard before we left Europe to finish everything before filming started. We’re having a good time.
Speaking of TV, I’m a huge America’s Next Top Model fan, so I’ve got to know: What were the best parts and the worst parts of appearing on ANTM?
Well, the thing with TV is it takes so long to do. You sit there and you wait — and you sit there and you wait. That’s probably the worst part. Also, you’ve got to be careful with what you say. And there were some weird things too. We had to do a fashion show on ANTM and certain things they couldn’t show on TV, so we had to change it. But it was cute; it was fun actually. Tyra Banks was great. We’re not used to other people telling us what to do, so maybe that was weird, too. Specifically backstage, in my backstage. But we actually got to go back and do the poster for them as well [the one where they were gangsters]. That was almost more fun than doing the show. We got to meet the girls, and we brought all the clothes, and it was great to see how they got to do the photo shoot.
You are also working on a music video with Fergie. Are you doing the costumes for the video as well?
No, no, no . . . actually, it’s kind of a last minute thing. We did one video with Fergie before and she knew that we were here and we were shooting and she was like, “Oh, I’m shooting a video and you guys should just come down and jump in it.” So, it’s not like a serious kind of thing, it’s just . . . hanging out.
It’s more relaxing that way then.
I mean, we just did a Britney concert. We saw it for the first time recently and we’re really, really happy because it’s actually great. The dances are amazing. She was great and the clothes really read, so we were happy campers because we did our job.
So how much did Britney actually collaborate with you on her costumes?
The theme was the circus, so that was the most collaboration. We sketched stuf — she definitely said what she liked and didn’t like. She left things really open to us, and she knew that we knew what we were doing. She was worried a little bit about her heel height, stuff like that, and she wanted tall boots. She had her ideas of what she liked, and then we worked around that. She’s really professional and agreed with what we came up with.
I know that you’ve dressed a lot of celebrities — besides doing costumes for Britney Spears, and videos with Fergie and Justin Timberlake — but is there a celebrity that’s out there right now that you’d love to get your hands on and dress for an event?
We’ve kind of done a lot. We’ve done Madonna, Christina Aguilera . . . we actually just finished doing Usher for his world tour. We really like when the artist is interested in us. We don’t usually go to them. But there are so many new, young artists right now, like Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls. She’s a hot female who I like.
So, what made you decide to do a sunglasses line?
Well, we’ve been in bsuiness now for 13 years, and there’s a certain awareness of who we are. So this is just an added accessory that is accessible to people. If someone can’t buy the fashion, they can buy into the brand by buying sunglasses, or even the fragrance. They can get a piece of DSQUARED2, one way or another. I also think that sunglasses are important, because they can change the attitude of the look. I guess you don’t get to do sunglasses until you are somebody, either. You can’t just start off doing that.
So someone can get a lower priced piece of DSQUARED2 by buying the sunglasses. Would you ever consider doing a lower priced collaboration with a store such as Target, H&M, or TopShop?
Sure! If H&M wanted to. Probably one day down the road we’ll do a second line anyway. It’s a different market, and it gives a possibility for another audience to buy into our brand.
What made you decide to start out with a men’s collection over a women’s collection?
Because when we were young, we didn’t have a lot of money and there was really a huge void in the men’s market. I was a small man, and we couldn’t find fashionable things to wear. We would buy ladies’ things because they were cooler and more fashionable at the time. So we made the clothes that we want, and we had our wardrobe! We made thirty pieces, backed it all by ourselves, and that was that.
Out of all of your design projects—the men’s line, women’s line, fragrance, costumes, sunglasses, shoes—do you have one specific thing that you are most proud of?
I think it was that first shop—500 square meters in the center of the Milan fashion district. It was there with Gucci and Prada. That made us feel like, ‘Oh my God—now we’re here, we have a shop.’ It was a physical thing. It said we were there, in the center of it all, and we were fitting in.
Would you ever want to open a store in the U.S.?
Totally, totally. It’s definitely in the plans. We were going to open a New York store and an L.A. store this year, but because of the economic crisis we shut it off for a year.
So maybe in a year from now we can expect to see it?
When this TV show comes out, we expect to see a way bigger awareness of who we are in America. It’s going to give us a larger audience, so we’d like to back that up with a store. At least one of them for sure, maybe New York first.
Will you ever consider showing in New York over Milan?
You know what? We thought about it. I would like to do it. I think it’s really fun to be a guest, have a guest show, and I think New York shows are great because there are a lot of great people that can come out. Milan is kind of far. I would love to do a night show in New York and have a huge event, invite lots of celebrities, and have an amazing thing. Maybe for an anniversary or something, like at 20 years.
I know that you recently moved to London. Do you feel that you’re being inspired by London fashion or are you still focusing on that American and Milan based idea?
Well, we’ve been there almost two years now. I think we’re getting inspired by English kids, that’s for sure. I mean, the fashion in London is pretty cool. It’s young and awkward. They have this little bit of cool edge. I think the people, not the shows there, are another fresh breath of air, instead of Italian people all the time. [Italians] have a certain style; they’re very status-y and label-y. There are some younger kids on the east end that maybe don’t have as much money, but they’re very creative and really into fashion. It makes me feel young because I was like that when we were young.
Do you think that there’s any one particular piece of clothing that is synonymous with modern day Italy?
I think tailoring is really what we get out of Italy. Especially for menswear. Men are tailored well and dressed well, so I think refined tailoring and cutting things well. They’re always really polished as opposed to the men we see in America who are so into being baggy, which is really unflattering.
It seems to me that foreign men are better dressed than American men unfortunately. That’s why we need you guys to come to the States!
Yeah, because they have to get it in their brains to do it. We’re actually making suits now, and we wear them on our show a lot, to show people how they should look, and it inspires them. I’m turning 45 this year; I’m not a kid anymore.
Did you know you always wanted to be designers since you were children?
Yes! We grew up with five sisters, in a poor family and we always made our clothes and tried to make the most of what we had. We always tried to dress them up and give them style. I think that’s the thing, not always having, but wanting. If you don’t have the ability to get something, you create your own. And we were not allowed to wear jeans as kids because my father felt jeans were for poor people, and he didn’t want people thinking we were poor, even though we were. He made us wear polyester pants because he thought it looked better. So, that’s probably why we do the best jeans. They are so important to us because we were never allowed to wear them.
Do you have a favorite part of designing clothes?
Probably that you get a second chance every six months. You get a new collection and a clean sheet of paper. It’s always changing. I like looking back at all our shows and seeing our story. That’s what we’re doing, we’re telling a story and each one is different. And then you get to tell another story, do another design. I get bored doing the same thing all the time, all the time.
Is there anything else that you would just love to tell the world?
Watch out for our show!
I stopped by the launch for Dean & Dan’s SIRIUS radio show and managed to snag Dean to get some thoughts from the other half of DSQUARED2.
So what has today been like…getting the radio show started and all?
We’re so happy to do this radio thing. It’s like our fucking review, you know what I mean? Journalists can come and see our show and they can get it, or they don’t get it, and music is such an important part of our lives. We do our own music for the shows and it completes the story that we want to bring. Also, to have a radio show, it’s telling the public where our head was when we did our 10th anniversary show. Our dad had just died, I just lived through the Tsunami, I come back, we’re doing these beautiful shows in a church, we were abandoned from the church as kids because we were gay, and maybe with the music people can relate. You don’t get it from the pictures, you don’t get it from the journalist’s point; you get it from our point of view. And we would like to throw that to the public. If they can’t come see our shows, they can listen to our music, and if they can relate to us, and that’s great. That’s the whole story to our show. We are the two simplest people on the face of the earth. We have come from nothing, have made something, and we’re giving back to everything that we ever came from, everything that we support.