Double trouble: Dean and Dan Caten open up about designing drag costumes, dressing Beyoncé and what we can expect from their upcoming men’s show
Dsquared2’s Dean and Dan Caten don’t take things too seriously. “We’re fashion designers, we’re not politicians!” says Dan. Fun is at the very core of their fashion design, from their runway shows to their ad campaigns and – as is clear when you meet them – their personalities.
Since 1995, the Canadian-born identical twins have been bringing this sense of fun to the catwalk, gaining a reputation for their mix of “Canadian iconography, Italian tailoring and playful sensuality”. At Milan Fashion Week, they represent an alternative form of glamour.
As their new flagship boutique situated in Via del Babuino opens, we talk to the Caten’s about their journey from Canadian drag queens to Milanese fashion kings, and how this past has left an indelible mark on their present.
Could you tell me about your relationship with Rome, where your new flagship boutique is, and how the city relates to your brand?
Dean Caten: I think our origins, our roots, are from this area.
Dan Caten: Near Rome.
Dean Caten: Also, symbol of Rome is Gemini. So there’s actually a symbol that he uses. The guy with the two twins...
Dan Caten: ...The two baby twins.
Dean Caten: ...That went on to build an empire.
How did you start out in fashion?
Dean Caten: I think as kids we always loved fashion so it was that. Generally, we knew what we wanted to do when we grew up. We went to Parsons (School of Design) in New York for a short time and then, fortunately, we got a job. We came back to Canada, working on a collection for six years. That was our first real break, and that was personal training. Then we moved to Europe and we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We worked some freelancing and finally, at the age of 30, decided that we’d start our own brand – and we did!
And you used to design drag costumes? Is that true?
Dean Caten: It is. We were pretty girls. We used to work in clubs. We used to do our outfits and every week we’d come in in a different outfit and, in a way, it was actually doing the same job we do now: creating a look. Then we make costumes and it was our creative release.
Dan Caten: You always have to pay the rent, one way or another – it was survival. We celebrated that part of our lives when we did our 90th tribute for the collection and if you see the campaign, it has us as boys and as girls. And there’s a video called Behind the Mirror, which goes deep into our other side, our woman’s side... our fabulous drag side!
What kind of costumes did you design back then? What were they like?
Dan Caten: Colourful, glamorous, show-stoppers.
Dean Caten: The good stuff. Slutty stuff. We had different hair colours for different personalities. Like Amber Ashley was a red, Lisa Leslie was a blonde… Fun stuff like that.
“(Drag) is a schooling about courage, not being afraid, and throwing yourself out there. I think that definitely helped build our brand” – Dean Caten
Have you carried on that sense of fun in what you do now? Do you feel like there’s a similar spirit in what you do?
Dean Caten: Oh yeah! We’re still pretty jubbly.
Dan Caten: You can’t take it too seriously. We’re fashion designers, we’re not politicians! And it’s a fortunate place to be and it’s a fortunate career to have, because we can do what we want to do.
Dean Caten: I think that represents an important part of our lives. Going out in the drag scene teaches you how to behave with other people, it teaches you how to be bigger than other people – stronger, and more superior about yourself. It taught us to be like, yes, you know what, you can walk into your room and own this room. You can walk into a meeting and own this meeting. It’s a schooling about courage, not being afraid, and throwing yourself out there. I think that definitely helped build our brand.
Dan Caten: Our empire...
Is there anyone that embodies that sense of fun and that spirit? Do you have a muse?
Dean Caten: I think it’s a lot of people that we’ve worked with who are amazing inspirations...
Dan Caten: ...Pushing the boundaries.
Dean Caten: ...Causing a commotion.
Dan Caten: Those kinds of things are attached to who we are.
Dean Caten: Oh, and I slay...
Can you tell me about the costumes you designed for Beyoncé’s Formation world tour?
Dan Caten: Well to start with, it was the Super Bowl. The mood was Black Panthers, she wanted to be a warrior, there was an important message... The crossed bullet holders were glamourised with Swarovskis. There was an image of a strong warrior.
Dean Caten: After that collaboration, she asked if we wanted to work on the Formation world tour.
Dan Caten: We were on the same page at the same time. With women showing samurai, Victorian, military, combat all together. We were just on the same page at the same time, so hurrah!
Dean Caten: We started with a Victorian opening formation.
What do you think of Beyoncé?
Dean Caten: Oh, we love her. Right now, she’s the most influential, the most powerful, the most controversial, and she’s doing it all in a really positive way.
Dan Caten: She’s everything.
Dean Caten: We’re super-happy to be a part of that, because she loves what she does and gave us an opportunity to do the things that we actually already do. Did we say we love her?
You did. Who are your other favourite musical collaborators?
Dan Caten: We love Rihanna, we love Jennifer Lopez.
Dean Caten: All of the ladies that we’ve worked with and are actually in relationships with.
Dan Caten: We have very big hearts.
What can we expect from your upcoming men’s show?
Dean Caten: I can’t give you clues. I can’t really give you any ideas. No, that sounds less fun. But... Expect the unexpected.
Dan Caten: It’ll be a summer show and they’ll be clothed in drag. There you go.