Dan and Dean Caten, the twin-brother designers behind the label Dsquared2, are the hottest sartorial tag team to come out of Milan since Dolce & Gabbana. Actually, the Catens are from Canada, where they grew up before relocating to Italy in 1991. The brothers are as proud of their Canuck heritage as they are of their Milanese design prowess and, dually, their brand combines Italian street chic with the rugged outdoors of their homeland. Dan and Dean started Dsquared2 in 1994, and have since watched their men’s and women’s wear and accessories boom worldwide, and have produced tour costumes for Madonna and Britney Spears. Now they are branching out further, directing their own commercial and, this fall, even hosting their very own Bravo fashion reality show, Launch My Line, where they judge and mentor media personalities who aspire to design a line of clothes. (Full disclosure: I am one of the contestants). The fact that Dan and Dean look alike, speak in a rapid-fire staccato, and finish each other’s sentences only makes them that much more individual—together.
Merle Ginsberg: So you’re here in Los Angeles for a number of reasons.
Dan Caten: Yes. One is to prepare to direct our first commercial for our scent, Wood. We’re going to the woods of Montana. Actually, we created the fragrance a few years ago and now we’re getting around to adding spices for different versions.
Dean Caten: From the very beginning, we imagined how the tv commercial would look—so here we are, doing it ourselves. We wanted to shoot in Canada, but right now it’s really cold there.
Ginsberg: Is this your directorial debut?
Dan: Yes, although when we appeared in the Fergie video “Clumsy,” the director let us run the fashion-show part of the video. And we’re directing every time we stage our Dsquared2 runway shows. Our fashion shows are really theatrical.
Dean: We want to do an Internet version of the commercial that’s really risqué.
Dan: Also, we’re here in L.A. to do dubbing for the fashion reality show we hosted. It’s scheduled to air in September. We just flew 13 hours, then went to Glendale to dub, now we’re doing an interview with you here at Sur restaurant on Robertson—then we’re going to party at the Chateau Marmont!
Dean: My brother and I work hard and we play hard. I think that’s reflected in our clothes. That’s what makes them so hot.
Ginsberg: Of course I know about Launch My Line, because I’m also on it. But I don’t know how you got cast in the first place.
Dean: First, we were just meant to be judges.
Dan: I’m not sure if they were having a hard time finding the right hosts or what. Eventually the thought was, Who the hell’s going to know more about fashion than these guys?
Ginsberg: Did you know a lot about Bravo and Project Runway?
Dan: No, no—nothing! We didn’t even know what Project Runway was. We barely knew who Heidi Klum was.
Dean: We’d done that Tyra thing—one time we were judges on America’s Next Top Model.
Dan: When we got off the plane to start Launch My Line, we actually went to a hosting school. Suddenly we had a big fucking camera in our faces! We’re designers, not hosts. We learned pretty fast that everything we did had to be 90 percent bigger.
Dean: I started to feel, watching myself on the feedback, that I couldn’t do it. We had to learn this skill really fast—we were nervous.
Dan: Totally nervous. I—
Dean: Danny, you wanted to go home!
Dan: I admit it. I wanted to go home! It wasn’t what we were used to doing. We were out of our element.
Dean: Then we felt bad, because the show was cast, it was definitely going to air, and producers talked us back into it. They said, “We need you.” We looked at each other and said, “After everything we’ve been through in our lives, there’s nothing we cannot do.”
Dan: But what helped in the end was deciding, “Let’s just go for it!”
Dean: While we were shooting, we got to have our trainer on the set and, in between takes, we got fabulous tans.
Ginsberg: Well, between that, your Dsquared2 Eyewear launch, and your M.A.C. makeup collection, you’ve got a lot of launching this fall.
Dean: We’re also getting a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. And we’re designing clothes for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This hasn’t officially gone out yet—I hope we don’t get in trouble!
Dan: We’re designing the clothes for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics because they’re in Canada. So we’re dressing all the talent. It’s huge.
Dean: And apparently, one of the world’s biggest singers, who’s also Canadian, will be singing at the opening. It’s pretty obvious who that is. We can’t say her name.
Dan: We get the star on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto in September. Kim Cattrall is also getting one. And Raymond Burr. They are giving away eight this year. Linda Evangelista has one. Hopefully, they’ve asked Linda to present to us.
Ginsberg: I had no idea you guys were so into your Canadian roots. You really come off Milanese.
Dean: Our recent Spring/Summer 2010 menswear show in Milan in June was an ode to our Canadian roots—it was all about camping, camping clothes, campfires. We actually like simple things. It reminds us of our youth.
Dan: We’re even sponsoring kids’ going to camp in Canada this summer. It’s time to give back. We come from humble beginnings, had no design training . . . we have a lot of gratitude.
Ginsberg: Meanwhile, you do clothes for so many rock tours. Was Madonna the first big star whose tour you worked on?
Dean: We did Madonna’s 2001 Drowned World Tour—designed the whole cowboy segment. And she was hands-on about every little detail!
Dan: She was the first huge person we worked with. It changed our lives. She said, “Six boys are currently in flare legs, two boys are in straight legs. I want the audience in the back row to know what song I’m going to sing. It’s all about silhouette in a stadium. I need all the boys to be in straight legs.” And she was right.
Ginsberg: Why are all these singers coming to you to do a tour?
Dean: It’s a huge undertaking. It’s a lot of fucking work! When we were doing Madonna, the day before she opened the tour, she said she wanted everyone in the finale to have gold cowboy boots. I said, Honey, the factory has to make them and there’s no way they could ship them in time.
Dan: She said, “Get on a plane.” Me and my brother, we got on a plane with 25 pairs of shoes, no hotel room. We slept in the house of our friend. But it was Madonna. And you know something? It was so huge! The cowboy segment was awesome. We went backstage afterward. She introduced us to everyone in the room and said thank you.
Dean: Danny had a belt on that she loved, and he took it off and said, “You know what? I think this has your name on it.” And she flipped out and didn’t take the belt off for one month. That makes all of your effort worthwhile. She is Madonna. She should ask for something—and get it. And if you’re somebody, you’re gonna give her what she needs.
Dan: And because we worked with her then, we now get what we need!
Photo: Dean and Dan Caten in London, April 2009.
MERLE GINSBERG is a fashion writer and the editor in chief of fashionrules.com.