Keeping the creative wheels churning is a challenge when you are in a profession where there seems to be nothing new under the sun. It’s all been seen before and done before. And done in imaginative ways that boggle the senses.
Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2 have found a way to make their stamp in an industry where one of the first rules of thumb is to wow and pop the first time around. Dean and Dan have not only wowed the first time around, they continue to mesmerize every season with an aesthetic that is not only fashion forward, but stays true to their own brand of fabulousness and individuality.
And boy can they put on a show. These Diaghilev’s of the fashion industry are creating a renaissance by demonstrating that fashion is more than just pretty clothes, that it rightfully has a place among the visual and performing arts.
With Dean and Dan, two heads are better one. It’s double the genius, double the passion, double the fun – in other words, creativity and fun to the second power.
A week after their Fall/Winter 2010 menswear collection in Milan, Dean Caten spoke to the Fashion Spot about his many projects and his love of a good time.
Could you talk about how you first got involved in fashion?
Dean Caten: We always loved fashion. We tried to follow our hearts and dreams and doors opened in the industry for us. We got started around the age of nineteen and were very fortunate to get the opportunity to work for a company in Canada, where we learned a lot.
What is the benefit of working with your twin brother?
Dean Caten: We are very similar and have a lot of the same ideas. We are together a lot, always brainstorming and coming with new ideas and concepts. We can wake up in the middle of the night and hash out ideas. What is so great about working with your twin is that you are very connected
Now you both split your time between Milan and London – why those two cities?
Dean Caten: Well, London is the biggest English-speaking European city, and very international with lots of things to do and see. We love Italy, but we embrace change and like to keeping moving. So when get bored in London, we can go to Italy, and when are bored in Italy, we can come back to our home in London. [Laughter]
Your shows are one of the hottest tickets during runway season. You always mix in elements of theatre, dance and music. It is quite a production and more than just great clothes. Could you talk about that?
Dean Caten: Our collection is like telling a story. We come up with a theme and develop that theme throughout the show. We think it is more interesting and fun to have a theme and a 360-degree message. We use other elements like music and dance to forward the storytelling process. We are going on a trip, a little voyage for 15 minutes, and you are going to enter into our world and our heads and experience what we are metaphorically tripping on. It is a lot more work, but more fun for us.
You never stray to far from all things Canadian. You have used maple leaf motifs, Canadian woodsy themes, and you have references to ice hockey in your current menswear collection. Why do always refer back your Canadian roots?
Dean Caten: Our Canadian roots differ us from other designers in our industry. Our Canadian roots belong to us, and they don’t belong to any other design company at our level. So, we always play on that because we own it and it makes us unique. Edith Piaf said, “Use your defects as your sex, and that will make you a star.” And that is what we have done. A lot of people think Canada has nothing to do with fashion, so we use that misguided perception as one of our defects. That has given us an imprint in the industry, and separates us from other designers.
In your current collection, you conjure up the slasher movie, bloodied-face, rough-and-tumble hockey aesthetic. Why that theme?
Dean Caten: The Vancouver Winter Olympics are coming up, and there has been a lot of controversy over the violence in ice hockey. So, in this collection I decided to put the blood and gore from ice hockey, and horror movies front and center. We mix that with sequined, glam tank tops and skinny jeans embellished with bling. There are some references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well. Our opening look is a hockey outfit covered in feathers that is a glam version of a masculine, aggressive, mean sport. We like to have a lot of contrast in our shows, mixing things together that don’t necessarily fit.
Could you talk about the skinny jeans, hung low-on-the-hips trend that pops up your collection?
Dean Caten: The skinny jean look gives our clothes a glam rock edge. We felt that if we were going to use these big, oversized hockey jerseys, we needed to set it off with a more tapered pant or jean to keep the look current.
At the end of your 2010 show in Milan, you and your brother came out in smocks – why?
Dean Caten: We were portraying Frankenfurter from Rocky Horror. You have this glam, Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie–aesthetic merging with this masculine, aggressive hockey vibe, and my brother and I are the creators of this look and experience, kind of the Frankenfurters of fashion, so to speak. We thought the whole thing would be a lot of fun, and it was.
When the organizing committee for the Vancouver Winter Olympics first approached you, what was your initial reaction?
Dean Caten: We were really excited when we got the news because it is such a huge honor to work on something of that scale. We were freaked out a bit at first. It was a huge undertaking, because you have to work with different committees and every single detail has to be approved. It was a lot of work designing things that were suitable for different events and venues. But I can say that it has been an exhilarating and worthwhile experience.
How much creative latitude did the committees give you?
Dean Caten: We had to work within a lot of boundaries, and had to coordinate our designs around certain themes that were pre-selected.
Now, how did Launch My Line come about?
Dean Caten: It was really strange because we were supposed to just be judges on that show. The producers thought we were really funny, and then asked us to host the show. It was really a fluke, but we had a lot of fun doing the show.
Fashion and television is a new frontier, so to speak. How do you feel about the mix of fashion and reality shows?
Dean Caten: Knowledge can sometimes be a difficult thing to get. And what these reality fashion shows do is provide insight into the fashion industry that consumers never had before. On Launch My Line, the contestants are already professionals in their own right, so I am not sure some of them took the opportunity as seriously as say, someone right out of design school. One of the reasons that we went on the show was to demonstrate that fashion design is a very serious endeavor, and that it takes real skill to do it well. You have to understand balance and proportion, construction, fabric choices, etc. These shows also shows why one design works better than others.
These fashion reality shows do humanize designers and the industry as a whole. The fashion world becomes something that doesn’t just happen in exotic cities, with a select group of creatives. I wish that when my brother and I were first starting out we had had the opportunity to be on one of these shows. We could have learned a lot.
Where you involved in picking the contestants?
Dean Caten: No, we were not. If the show comes back for a second season, we would like to co-produce the show, as well as continue hosting. We will do a lot of things differently the second time around.
What’s next for you?
Dean Caten: We never say never, and we like to stay open to new ideas and opportunities. There are so many things we love doing. The world is our oyster, and we are open to everything.
For more information about Dsquared2, go to dsquared2.com.
Photos are courtesy of Dsquared2.