The Canadian designers behind Dsquared2 talk growing up in Toronto, dressing LGBTQIA2S+ icons, and what Pride means to them.
Fashion saved the lives of Dan and Dean Caten.
Twenty years before Dsquared2 was even an idea, the identical designer twins grew up in Toronto, where they experienced incessant bullying and harassment for being different, feminine and poor. “Together we weathered all the storms, always finding shelter in each other,” reflects Dean. “It wasn’t until we dipped our toes into the fashion world that we really felt our purpose and accepted ourselves for who we are.” So it makes sense that since then, the pair has infused community and acceptance into everything they do.
Dsquared2 first opened its doors in Milan in 1994 but it wasn’t until the 2000s that the brand and the twins reached superstar status. They perfected maximalist mashups in their collections with ease and continue to effortlessly play with Western and biker references, while still showing a whole lot of skin. But tapping into queer pop culture has always been a priority for the Caten brothers. In the early days of Dsquared2 they designed over a hundred looks for Madonna’s 2001 world tour. “It meant everything to us. Growing up, it was pop-stars like Madonna who went against the norm, always being true to herself, that really inspired us to do the same,” Dean explains. Dsquared2 has since dressed Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Rihanna and a number of other celebrities beloved by the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
Flash forward to 2017 and Dsquared2 merged their men’s and women’s lines into one runway in an effort to overcome barriers set by gendered labels, “We believe the future is fluid, the world is changing and there is a new generation that is challenging the traditional views of fashion and gender,” says Dean. “There is a long way to go but this progress is a step in the right direction. To us, Pride is a celebration of expression and embracing all walks of life.”
While Dsquared2 has evolved over the years, it has always stayed true to the Caten’s “work hard, play hard” mindset. “Our collections mix and match different styles, combining sporty and glamourous, masculine and feminine,” Dan explains. Everyone is welcome to participate in this world, wear their clothing and, now, decorate their homes with the brother’s iconic designs.
The duo’s latest project is Dsquared2’s first ever wallpaper collection. Pieces in the collection were co-created alongside LondonArt and are centered around different themes from the brother’s lives. From an enchanting fashion runway to a re-imagination of grandma’s garden, the Caten’s have put their life on full display. One wallpaper, called “Canadian Forest,” pays homage to the brothers’ upbringing, “Our Canadian roots will always be an important pillar and inspiration in our designs,” Dan says. “We take the rustic outdoors and mix it with Italian tailoring and all-out glamour.”
With so much of Dan and Dean’s life story focused around finding home and acceptance, it seems fitting that they would eventually want their designs to be a part of someone else’s home. “Our wallpaper collection is a new way to experience lifestyle and to tell our story,” explains Dan. Dean adds, “We want to be that positive reinforcement that allows people to feel sexy and confident however they choose to express themselves.”