Double take: In conversation with Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2 

11 Aug 2022 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Chris Anderson

It takes two to tango, and two to run one of Italy’s most characterful contemporary fashion labels. Luxury London meets the identical twin founders of Dsquared2, Dean and Dan Caten, who’ve conquered the world through an

As a writer sitting down to interview Dean and Dan Caten, the Canadian, identical-twin founders of luxury Italian fashion house Dsquared2, it can be difficult to focus the mind. Yes, they are charming, animated and funny, and your eyes will quickly dart from one to the other, scanning ferociously, trying to spot the physical differences that tell them apart – made all the trickier by the fact they dress in identical Dsquared2 outfits – but because your thoughts will also turn to the article you plan to write, and how many twin-related puns it might be acceptable to print (see title).

For example, have Dean and Dan found 2022 to be something of a, ahem, double-edged sword? On the one side, in April, the company happily announced Sergio Azzolari, previously a senior executive at Benetton, Missoni and Tod’s Group, as its first CEO since 2017. Azzolari, says Dean, will be in charge of driving Dsquared2’s growth by “reinforcing its omni-channel footprint” and maintaining an “increasingly global point of view”.

On the sword’s other edge, back in February, the brand announced the closure of its three-storey flagship store in London, which occupied a spot on the corner of Savile Row and Conduit Street, seven years after it opened. A London presence will still be maintained via Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, as well as online, but the store closure is perhaps a sign of the times, with retail footfall in the capital already on the wane before numbers were compounded by Covid-19.

Dsquared2 AW22

While Dean and Dan are reluctant to address specifics, they at least make their feelings for the city clear. “London is polyhedric, inspiring and dynamic,” says an animated Dean. “We love its lifestyle and admire its creativity. London is full of art, architecture and entertainment. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. This city for us is pure experimentation; young, cool and innovative, where trends are increasingly inspired by street style, or by edgy artistic movements.”

For many years, the now-57-year-old twins called the capital ‘home’. When the pair decided to sell their Grade II-listed, Maida Vale townhouse in 2020, they invited Luxury London to take a look inside. We were shown Andy Warhol portraits of David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor, and an original Jean-Michel Basquait. “We’re now living between Milan, where Dsquared2 is based, and Cyprus,” says Dan. “But when there is the occasion, we’re always very happy to come back to London. It’s still one of our favourite cities.”

Dean and Dan were raised in Toronto, Canada, as the eighth and ninth children of an already-struggling family (their father hailing from Lazio, Italy); spending time in foster care as teens when their parents could no longer cope, and bullied during most of their school years. Yet in fashion, the pair found comfort and a means of self-expression. “We always knew we wanted to be designers,” says Dean. “Ever since we were little kids, we always loved fashion and used to alter and make our own clothes. It simply came naturally to us.”

Dsquared2 AW22

Dan recalls similar memories. “At 10 years old, we made our first special-occasion outfit for one of our sisters,” he says. “For us, it was clear right from the start, we knew we were meant to do something creative, and the best way we could express ourselves was through clothes and style. Since then, our passion became our work, and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to pursue our dream and make it our life and our job. Even today, we’re still hands-on in terms of design.”

First came a women’s label, DEanDAN, after which the twins were signed as creative directors to Toronto-based fashion house Ports International (now Ports 1961). A move to Milan followed in 1991, where they worked as designers for Versace and Diesel, with the latter providing the funding to help launch Dsquared2 in 1995.

“Ports was the beginning for us, and we put so much energy and passion into that job,” says Dean. “We were there for six years, and it was the most beautiful, unforgettable experience. We’re so grateful to [late founder, Japanese-Canadian fashion designer] Luke Tanabe for believing in us.

“And Canada represents our roots, our starting point. The forest, the nature, it’s part of our brand DNA. We love the clean air and the sense of freedom that you can experience there. It’s always nice to go back and visit family when we have the chance.”

Image: Alikhan Photography

Not that the opportunity presents itself all that often. There is Dsquared2 to run, celebrities to dress – including, in the past, Madonna, Cher, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and brand ambassadors Naomi Campbell and Zlatan Ibrahimović – and even a restaurant to keep afloat. Ceresio7 is located in Milan, and as well as serving food, boasts its own gym and spa.

How on earth do the brothers manage to keep on top of such a hectic work life? “We’re positive people, and we’re passionate,” says Dan. “We try not to take things too seriously, and we still enjoy what we do – every day of our lives. We’re so grateful for everything, and maybe this has had a positive effect on our success.”

What began as a small company manufacturing basic menswear staples – shirts, T-shirts, jeans – morphed into a worldwide brand with one of the most recognisable style aesthetics. A melding of contrasts: sporty and glamorous, laidback and extravagant, masculine and feminine. Contemporary, street-enthused casualwear meets Italian high tailoring. Grungy-yet-playful, rough-but-ready collections – paint splatter, graffiti prints, rips, holes and tears – that belie the craftsmanship that has gone into producing them. The word ‘Icon’ is a slogan. A roaring tiger a recurring motif. Denim and leather the go-to materials.

“Dsquared2 is about keeping it real,” says Dean. “Everything we see around us can inspire our creations: meeting interesting people, travelling, watching a movie… The music scene is also a great source of inspiration, and we always have ourselves in mind when designing our clothes – we were Dsquared2’s first clients!”

Dsquared2 Pre-Fall 2022

“We love to experiment every season, without forgetting our Dsquared2 DNA,” says Dan. “Our SS22 ‘Luxury Grunge’ collection, for example, has deconstructed and worn-in glamorous pieces, designed with soul, with a past, future and present, characterised by floral prints on gauzy fabrics, destroyed knits, patchwork upcycled denims, and glittery tattered strands.”

Dan continues: “Then for AW22, we’re really looking to Mother Nature through outdoorsy, colourful, luxury layered pieces. For men, there’s a sleeping-bag-padded coat that wraps over a boxy striped knit; a blanket that turns into a coat draped over one shoulder; for women, we have hidden stones shining in a long tulle tunic skirt, worn with a striped sweater and oversized washed jeans, with gigantic waistcoats and puffers – some cut from soft leather with felt-lined hoods – and sheer nylon trousers with goose down padding, finished with puffy nylon boots.” There’s a lot going on, as you can see from the pictures on this page.

If it’s difficult to tell Dean and Dan apart physically, it’s clear that the two brothers have very different personalities – something that comes across even in our interview. Dean, you get the sense, is the starry-eyed dreamer. Dan, the more prosaic, let’s-get-on-with-it of the two. At least that’s what I got. Is that fair to say?

“Ha!” laughs Dan. “Well, let’s put it this way, a lady once told us, ‘Dean is the wings, Dan is the feet’,” he smiles. “You can’t fly without wings, and you can’t land without feet. We simply need one another.”

Read more: In conversation with Luca Rubinacci