It was 1995 when Canadian twins, Dean and Dan Caten decidedly embarked on the DSquared2 journey with a men’s show that would inevitably skyrocket them to global brand status. The duo, 2 of a total of 9 siblings, have always sort of been a brand in their own right since birth; let’s just say it’s always been the Dean and Dan show. The self-proclaimed odd balls who say they never really fit in with their family or at school learned to use their quirk to their defense. Something about an Edith Piaf-ian approach to using your defects to your defense in order to be a star. Today, over 20 years later, things like expanding to womenswear or dabbling in accessories are long gone milestones that are giving way to things like designing for the Olympic Games or outfitting Beyonce for what just might be the performer’s Olympics, the half time show at the Super Bowl; plus, stateside retail growth that’s been long-awaited but, as we learned while chatting with the superstar duo, perfectly timed.
Twenty years is a momentous anniversary, especially for Dean and Dan who acknowledge that fashion design was always a dream of theirs and are very much aware that they are in fact, living that dream–a quality that oozes graceful humility coupled with the confidence that’s innate in the presence of those two. The reality is that it’s been about staying power for the Ontario-born, Milan-based designers who have clearly succeeded in unlocking the formula for long-term success in a cut throat industry where winner often takes all. In two decades you either become a brand or you fall by the wayside to allow for the strong to rise. Is it luck? Probably not. They know how hard they’ve worked to get here and they know the planning it took.
They’re open about never having had what they call a “peak moment;” but rather calculated steady “growing, growing, growing” that had much to with timing. Their timing that is–knowing when the foundation was strong and when the brand was ready to take leaps.
One of those moments was just last year when the company took America by storm opening its first three stateside stores in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Plans to continue expansion to Las Vegas and other main cities are in the works, but we wondered what took them so long. Apparently we aren’t so forgiving in America–you get one shot and if you eff up, you fail. So they took the whole fail to plan, plan to fail thing to heart and came armed with the appropriate preparatives to take the states by storm? How did they know they were ready? They got a little help from something we like to call the internet. The launch of their E-commerce platforms were large indicators that not only were they ready for America, but America was ready for them. Intel told the twins that the Americans were having a hard time finding a full range of product outside of some slim pickings in multi-label establishments where, through no fault of anyone’s, there just can’t be the right representation of the product range. California seemed to be their largest audience online and the stores followed.
In true twin fashion, the trudge forward was perfectly planned. Recalling times when they opened their first stores and had no teams in place, they remember doing their own windows in Paris as Visuals (in terms of a team assigned the role of mastering their visual representation via store fronts and window displays) didn’t exist. Now they’ve built the right teams; people have been assigned. And it’s armed with these right people that the world of DSquared2 can be experienced daily, across the globe. There’s no longer the fear of an incohesive or mismatched representation of what they do existing at any one outpost because these outposts are curated. They give the full message; the full picture. It’s an open-door welcome to their universe. And the teams are just an extension of it–they know what they’re talking about; they’re trained in the different cuts and styles and they can take you on a journey through the brand. It’s a better experience.
And an educational one, at that. Even after all this time, people still come in to stores and express surprise to discover the brand makes suits or coats, thinking the jeans and tee shirts they may have seen at a department store was the full expression of what these two do. At that point the free-standing stores become a really important part of the global image to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language around the world. Luckily, the success has been outstanding and the twins tell us that their Miami store, in Bal Harbour Shops is amongst the largest producer per square meter, as a matter of fact. No doubt in part to the fact that, as they say, “[Miami] is going on.”
You know what else is “going on?” DSquared2’s extra-curriculars. Between outfitting J-Lo in a megawatt pantsuit for the AMA’s and Beyonce’s killer jacket, complete with faux ammo, for her widely discussed Super Bowl half time performance, they have the celeb market cornered. Something that’s of a certain level of importance in the US where celebrity can often play a big role in brand association and where canoodling with the right people can lead to extra prestige. “The icing on the cupcake,” they called it. Other notable partnerships currently underway include the pair’s collaboration with Hudson’s Bay on the opening ceremony uniforms for Team Canada for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.