Thank you for shooting the wonderful photos of Leo Messi in this issue, Domenico. What inspired you to explore photography as an art form?
Domenico Dolce: I have always loved photos. To me, they are like food for the eyes. A friend of mine gave me as a present a camera and that’s how I started to take pictures. At first, as a hobby. Then everyone was telling me that the pictures were really nice and so I thought I could try to do something with this. It all began like an experiment, to be honest. I didn’t know where that would have led me. I did some portraits of some young football players, and by the time I finished working with them, I had so many images that they became the book Campioni that we published last year.
What inspired the idea to photograph Leo Messi specifically?
Stefano Gabbana: We have been working with Leo for a few years now and in this period of time we have come to know the man behind the football player. We were surprised to find in this young guy such a strong personality, such a firm belief in the same values in which we have always believed: like the importance of family and friends, of discipline and sacrifice to achieve your goals.
DD: I am one of his biggest fans and I wanted to do an homage to him that was different from those he got already from his role on the field. These portraits and this book are our homage to a great champion and, most importantly, a great man.
Are there qualities that Leo Messi has as a person and athlete that you feel help bring the Dolce and Gabbana aesthetic to life?
SG: It’s not much about the aesthetic of Dolce & Gabbana, but rather how our fashion adapts to his personality. So, the fact that he has a personal style and doesn’t care about trends is a quality that we had admired in him since the first time we met. He knows what he wants and that’s fine with us. We don’t expect people to dress like they have just come out of a look-book.
DD: At first, he came to us because he liked our clothes, but wanted our advice to have a stronger image outside the field. In time, he learned what he likes and what he doesn’t like.
SG: He wants to be comfortable in his clothes and he likes casualwear during the day. For special occasions, instead, he wants to have something…well…special.
What has the collaborative process been like in working with Leo?
DD: Very easy. For example, the first time we saw each other, we told him that he had to do something about his hair and he immediately went and cut it.
SG: This doesn’t mean that he does whatever we ask him to do, but that was an example of the trust he had in us. He came to us because he already liked what we did, but needed some advice on how to improve his personal image.
Have there been other iconic athletes from the past that have inspired you throughout your design career?
DD: David Beckham. He was the first one that really understood the importance and strength of taking care of his own image outside the field. That’s how he has become an icon.
SG: …although we can’t say that there are athletes that have inspired us in our work. We do what we do and we try to speak to everybody, athletes, singers, every day people.
How do you see fashion intersecting with sports in today’s culture?
DD: We live in a society in which image plays an ever increasing and important role. That’s why fashion has become relevant also to sportsmen. A decade ago it was not like this.
SG: Then there was Beckham and it all started.
At your recent flagship store opening in NY, several athletes were in attendance and were enamored with your designs. Can you explain why your designs resonate with fashionable athletes?
SG: You should ask them! Maybe because they like the way our clothes fit and enhance the qualities of their bodies.
DD: You know, this has to do with the attention we put in studying the proportions and the cuts of the clothes. It was from my father, who was a tailor and taught me everything, that I learned all of this. When you put on one of our jackets, it has to fit perfectly. The same goes with our shirts and pants and so on.
SG: Athletes in particular, being public personalities, they are all very conscious of how they look, as they are constantly scrutinized not only for what they do, but also for their looks.
You have been designing the on-field apparel for AC Milan for several years. Would you like to see American teams develop a more fashion-forward sense in their on-field apparel as well?
DD: Why not? Our first rule is that there are no rules… never say never!
What does an athlete’s wardrobe off the field say about them as a person?
DD: That they care about their image. As simple as that. It also says that they have a personality and that they have chosen that pair of pants or that jacket because it represents their own style. At the end of the day, it all comes down to one’s personality. If you have it, you can even wear the simplest outfit and stand out in the crowd.
If you could give one piece of advice to an athlete who was interested in becoming more fashionable, what would it be?
SG: To be himself and to pick the things in which he feels at ease. There’s nothing worse than somebody wearing something only because it’s “trendy.”
When an athlete makes a great play on the field, it can become an iconic moment for generations to come. Can an incredible fashion design equally capture a moment of greatness in time for generations?
SG: Yes, I believe so. Think of the “New Look” of Christian Dior or of the masculine suit for women of Yves Saint Laurent. They are still a source of inspiration today.
What would you like your legacy to be as it relates to dressing the world’s greatest athletes?
DD: That through the style of Dolce & Gabbana they were able to better communicate who they are.