As the Italian label launches an exclusive collection with Bratz, we catch up with creative director Giuliano Calza to talk fashion, nostalgia, and fantasy
What’s on your Christmas list this year? Maybe it’s a new laptop, a winter coat, or a candle that’s just a little bit more bougie than what you would buy for yourself. Giuliano Calza at GCDS wants us to remember a time when our wish lists weren't quite so practical. When the aisles of Woolworths in December set our hearts racing. When Christmas morning started with rushing downstairs to see what Santa had delivered overnight. When we ripped open wrapping paper to find the Bratz doll we’d been dreaming of for months.
The new GCDS Bratz collaboration is steeped in this nostalgia, tapping into our modern obsession with Y2K and offering a playful antidote to these turbulent times. Cropped hoodies, bodycon minis, and the signature GCDS heart bag are all given a Bratz makeover. Loungewear is emblazoned with the iconic tagline "passion for fashion” and Bratz prints covers shorts, dresses, and bralets. And that’s not all. The collection also includes two limited edition Bratz dolls worthy of writing to Santa for. Sasha’s look is pure glam with a diamante mini, fur coat, and over the knee white boots, while Yasmin wears a cute Bratz print mini accessorised with GCDS’ iconic cat shape sunglasses.
This is for the kids who grew up dreaming of dressing like a Bratz doll. Calza describes the collaboration as “a match made in heaven,” noting that GCDS and Bratz share the same values of playfulness and inclusivity even if they’re sometimes misunderstood. Here, we chat with Giuliano about the collection, creating your own fantasy, and why the Bratz remain our favourite 00s style icons.
Hey Giuliano! How did the Bratz collaboration come about?
Giuliano Calza: When MGA first contacted me and said they’d love to do a Bratz collaboration I started screaming like a 10-year-old girl before Christmas! I said, absolutely yes! I grew up with Bratz. At the very beginning of my career, everyone was saying they didn’t really understand what I was doing and I remember when Bratz launched they got the same reaction. They were not the right look at the time. So it really made sense to do this collab with them.
What do Bratz and GCDS have in common?
Giuliano Calza: Bratz were some of the first dolls to not all be the same or set the same beauty standards. That's what's so important for me. In all my castings, I look to discover something new, something that is echoing with the people at home. With my brand, I’ve always wanted to make people dream as if they were tiny kids. You have to see things that make your heart go boom. That’s what I wanted to do with GCDS and that’s what Bratz still does. It was a match made in heaven.
How would you describe this collection?
Giuliano Calza: For me, the most important thing was to stay playful. We live in such a heavy world. Why would you want to do heavy things? I think it should be fun. It should be pop. It should be a fantasy.
Did styling a doll feel different from styling a living person?
Giuliano Calza: It was just more fun. Sometimes when I'm doing my job and designing a collection, I have to remind myself that this has to be on the streets at some point. There are runway pieces and then there are commercial pieces, things that people will live in over and over. With a doll, I had no boundaries. I could create my fantasy of what I would be like if I was a doll living in California. Styling a crystal dress with fur and a jumpsuit and a boot might be too much in real life.
Why do you think so many adults still love Bratz today?
Giuliano Calza: I think they were a bit ahead of the time so if at the beginning they were wrong, now they are completely right. They have a sass and a comedy about them that’s unapologetically fun.
“Bratz were some of the first dolls to not all be the same or set the same beauty standards. That's what's so important for me” – Giuliano Calza
You use the “passion for fashion” tagline as a motif throughout the collection. What does the line mean to you?
Giuliano Calza: I always fantasised about this ‘passion for fashion’. It's something that's been echoing in my mind for so long. It's this idea of having passion for the things you do because of course you have to believe in it 100 per cent and you have to challenge yourself to be you when you do my job. At the same time, you have to have this irony and light tone that fashion is about to remind you at the end of the day you're creating art and vision but it's clothing and it has to be something that cheers us up instead of setting the tone for something boring.
Are there any particular toys, books or films that you encountered in childhood that have impacted your work and creativity?
Giuliano Calza: I didn't have too many toys as a kid. I had lots of books, lots of movies, and lots of cartoons. I was lucky enough to live in a house with a garden so I had the chance to play a lot. I think the fact that I didn't have too many toys made me willing to create my own toys. What you miss the most as a kid is what you want to have in life when you grow up.
Bratz taught us that it's okay to be different. What advice would you give to kids who are struggling to fit in?
Giuliano Calza: For me, this was the most important message. To share my message I wouldn't go with classic dolls that embodied just one standard. I always talk to the kids and they said I cast people they can see themselves in. I would tell them that my success is thanks to following what I believe in. I think we should learn how to appreciate who we are. Being authentic in the long run is the only thing that's going to help you survive in any job or craft. I don't think you can fake it ‘til you make it.
Although Bratz are more diverse than some other dolls, they still promote unrealistic body and beauty standards. What would you say about that?
Giuliano Calza: No more than a phone! I think this is a really interesting conversation. Today parents give kids a phone when they're four and they can have YouTube and access to everything. Compared to that, dolls are not the main problem.
“The most important thing (about designing this collection) was to stay playful. We live in such a heavy world. Why would you want to do heavy things? I think it should be fun. It should be pop. It should be a fantasy” – Giuliano Calza
Can you tell me about the GCDS Bratz pop-ups that are happening in December?
Giuliano Calza: Our pop-up in Milan is going to have these giant doll eyes spying on you from the window. There's going to be one in London on Peter's Street and there's going to be another one in Rome in my store. For Christmas, I want to make everyone go back to their parents and say, ‘I want to have a doll’. We are forgetting to live the time of our lives. We are forgetting that sometimes even stupid things are important. Even playing with dolls and imagining being that girl can be really therapeutic. Christmas magic is so important. When you open that box, sometimes it doesn't have to be an iPhone. Sometimes it doesn't have to be expensive. It can be a doll that is going to make you feel passion for fashion once again.
Do you think that Bratz have created a community where people can connect with each other?
Giuliano Calza: I hope so. I think they’re a way to connect by speaking a common language. It can be a doll or a book or poetry. I want to give value to these things.