Dan and Dean Caten, the twins behind Dsquared2, see eye to eye
Dan and Dean Caten are on a creative roll as they open more outlets around the world. Abid Rahman catches up with the design duo during a quick visit to Hong Kong
True to form, Dan and Dean Caten start their interview with the clink of champagne glasses. The Canadian identical twins behind the exuberant DSquared2 label aren't toasting anything in particular, as Dan, the younger of the two by mere minutes, concedes.
The Caten brothers, 49, are making a whistle-stop tour of Hong Kong and Shanghai, "christening", as they say, two recently opened Dsquared2 boutiques in Hong Kong's IFC and Shanghai's IAPM malls.
As if that didn't give them enough to do, they are also fielding questions from interviewers, hosting cocktail parties and attending private dinners. In Hong Kong, there was even the extravagance of a lavish pool party at the Grand Hyatt, themed around their jungle-inspired spring-summer menswear collection.
"It's an indelible part of the DNA," says Dan, remarking on the theatricality of the pool party. "We always do something dramatic, especially with Joyce. We've done two fashion shows here. This time we wanted to do something around the theme of the collection, a tropicana, tiki kind of thing.
"We thought it would be funny to do it outside," adds Dan, looking out of the window and considering the humidity. "I mean, it's not that hot," he says, in a reference to those who had tried to talk him out of the idea.
DSquared2 has become a byword for flamboyant clothes, and has gained attention through its outrageous runway shows, which are now a must-see during Milan fashion week.
"We get bored really easily," says Dan. "We want to do exciting things that people don't expect. We jump a lot in different directions to keep us excited. We never want to be so institutionalised that you know you have to do certain things. We won't be dictated to, either. We like our freedom and we like taking risks."
Although Dan does much of the talking, there is a sense that both brothers talk and think alike. This "hive mind" has proved incredibly beneficial as designers to an ever-expanding number of collections.
"There are no cons, only pros, to being twins. We can't fire each other. It's easier to maybe smack each other," says Dan. "We've been together all our lives, so we know each other well. There are so many things to do, and we don't have enough time to do them. Recently, we've started to divide things up."
Dan looks after menswear and Dean womenswear, but both brothers check each other's work, and provide fresh eyes on their ideas and designs. The closeness of the brothers might, to outsiders, seem a little odd. But Dan wonders why people make such an issue out of it.
"Yes, we share a room. We shared a stomach so what's so weird about sharing a room?" he says, adding that he thinks, compared to southern European siblings, they aren't really that affectionate towards each other.
"I think it all depends where you're from," says Dan, alluding to their thoroughly Canadian upbringing and English mother.
Despite a jet-set lifestyle that is based in London, their work in Milan, and their frequent business and inspirational trips around the world, Canada is still very important.
"We're really proud of giving Canada a voice in this industry," says Dan, adding that aspects of Canadian culture frequently pop up in their clothes. Dan lowers his voice for a playful aside: "This is going to sound so horrible, but they did this big CFDA-type thing in Canada, the Cafa (Canadian Art and Fashion Awards), and we kind of cleaned up," he says.
"I mean, there was nobody else they could give awards to. I shouldn't be saying that," he adds, mischievously.
On their national treasure status in Canada, Dean pipes in with comic timing: "We have a star on the sidewalk in Canada, and we're the first fashion designers to have that. We are right next to Celine Dion. It's another reason people walk all over us."
Fully revived after a few glasses of champagne, Dean takes up the baton. "When we started, menswear was really just suits, it was classic. But we thought, we don't dress like that all the time. We were young and we wanted fashion that was a little grittier, casual but with a bit more edge. Denim on the catwalk was a statement.
"We're our own customer. We're not 20 anymore, so the style has matured to what we would wear today," adds Dean.
The tiki-inspired spring-summer men's collection was in stark contrast to the Grey Gardens meets Girl, Interrupted "crazy elegance" of the spring-summer womenswear collection.
The thought of it inspires Dean to go off into a long, intricately plotted story about the womenswear collection; he says that the brothers are actually frustrated filmmakers.
A harder edged quality informs their coming autumn-winter collections, for men in particular, with inspiration taken from a source close to home and a desire to make orange the new black. "Our [menswear] show was a correctional institute for bad people," says Dan.
Dean reveals that his predilection for bad boys also played its part. "I had two boyfriends in jail. They were big trouble. But at least I knew where they were."
DSquared2 should have a big 2015, with new boutiques in Hong Kong and the mainland, as well as planned openings in London, Los Angeles and New York. Next year is the 20th anniversary of their menswear line, and they are also both turning 50.
"We're trying to do a book and trying to do a film," says Dan, seemingly trying not to reveal too much with his communications manager hovering close by.
It seems like the restless twins are looking for yet more ways to express their creativity.