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Dean and Dan Caten: “We try it all on”

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Dean and Dan Caten
Photo by The Talks
Short Profile

Name: Dean Catenacci
DOB: 19 December 1964
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Fashion Designer

Name: Dan Catenacci
DOB: 19 December 1964
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Fashion Designer

Dean and Dan, is it true that you only wear clothes that you have designed yourself?

Dan: Yes. It helps you understand it. We don’t really get enough feedback. We have one amazing fitting guy who tells us everything, but certain details… We’ll wear things all the time and think, “Why am I wearing that? What do I like about this?” There are little qualities about each garment.

Dean: Maybe it’s a weight thing, maybe it’s the wash, whatever.

Dan: It’s all information. So it’s like information lost if you don’t get to feel it.

How does that work with your women’s collection for DSquared?

Dean: We try it all on. (Laughs) I’m a 42.

Seriously?

Dean: Yes, I do.

What do you think it says about a designer who never wears his own clothes?

Dean: I can’t believe it. They don’t care. How can somebody design something by thinking about what somebody else wants to wear? It doesn’t make sense. So I have a baby, and then I give it to you. What’s that about?

You are identical twins and you seem inseparable. How close are you really?

Dan: We even sleep in the same bed.

Dean: Unless we’re entertaining…

Does your closeness make other relationships difficult?

Dean: It depends on the person. They know that there are two of us.

Dan: It depends. Sometimes, yeah. We’re sort of a couple. As we get older we’re a little bit easier, but when we were younger… Let’s change the subject! (Laughs)

When did you start dressing the same?

Dean: We would dress the same when we had to do something like grandma’s 50th anniversary, but otherwise we always wore hand-me-downs and our sisters’ clothes.

Dan: Because when we were younger we never had money.

Dean: We also were not allowed to wear jeans. Our dad was poor and he thought jeans were for poor people, so in the mid ’70s we had to go to school with dress pants. And we were the laughingstock of the school – for good reason. I think that’s why we love denim, because we weren’t allowed to wear it.

Which one of you started getting into fashion first?

Dean: Both of us. In Canada you have to take your shoes off at the door and we used to fight over who was going to try on my brother’s girlfriend’s shoes. They were blue suede, moon and star encrusted wedges. We would also play with our sisters’ toys and stuff, dress up…

Dan: We had more style than they did. If they had to buy a dress for the prom or something we would go with them. It was weird, we were these little kids telling these girls what to wear.

How old were you?

Dan: We were like 12… not even.

What was it like to pursue an interest in fashion growing up in a suburb of Toronto in the ’70s?

Dan: When we were living at home our sister had some gay friends in high school. They were kind of like our window to the real world, something that we were oblivious to. So we would go downtown and hang out with them. It was the late ’70s and things were changing, gay people were kind of interesting and doing things and being a little bit ahead of it.

Was it difficult being gay in Canada at that time?

Dan: We didn’t really realize that we were gay. I think it was just that we fit somewhere, we fit in. We liked where we were; we liked the people; they understood us. We weren’t the weirdos anymore.

When were you the weirdos?

Dan: In high school.

Why?

Dean: We were gay! (Laughs)

Dan: Nobody liked us.

Dean: They snowballed us. We were the targets of random snowballing attacks.

I guess I never quite imagined you as the captains of the football team.

Dan: We took home economics and they would come to the window and look because we were the only boys sitting behind sewing machines. We were like freaks!

When was the point that you realized fashion could be your career?

Dean: It was when we went to New York for a six-week course at Parsons. The first day of the program they got everyone in a room and said, “If you don’t live, sleep, eat, and breathe fashion this is not for you.” We just looked at each other and we were like, “Fuck! This is it.”

Dan: After school we would go home, do the homework, take a nap, wake up at 1 o’clock and we’d go to Studio 54 and then go straight to school the next day. We did this for six weeks. Every night.

You’re now based in Milan. How did you end up in Italy?

Dan: We were working for a company in Canada for 6 years and for that company we would travel to Europe, to Paris, to Milan and we would go to fabric shows and we loved Italy and our father was Italian so we said, “You know what? Let’s start there.” So we decided to move.

Did you have a job and did you speak Italian?

Dean: No!

Dan: We had everything against us, everything. It took us three years and we did other stuff and we worked here, worked there, we did PR, we did promotion, we did styling. We did everything.

I heard that you even did some go-go dancing…

Dean: You gotta pay the rent.

Dan: We did do clubs. (Laughs) We were, let’s say, party hosts. And we were really good and made a lot of money from it, so that paid for our first collection. And it was probably the best time of our life.

Did you ever worry that you were getting a bit off track from your ambitions?

Dan: It took us some time and then we realized that we were 30 years old and we said to each other, “We came to do something in fashion and we’re working in clubs. Let’s get it together.” So we looked at our bank account and we said, "We can do it now," so we just stopped and started designing.

Dean: “The time has come.”

Dan: Because you can do that for a certain time and life can be funny, but then you look in the mirror, you are 30 years old and you realize you don't want to be 40 and still be there.

Dean: I think your 20s is the time when you play, your 30s are when you do it, and your 40s are when you should be on the right street.