3 min

Really real fashion

Dean and Dan are inspired by things that are not typically fashion

OUT AND ABOUT. Dean and Dan want to see you out wearing their clothes. Credit: Xtra files

Dean and Dan Caten, the gay Canadian brothers behind the Italian-based fashion label D-Squared, are living the life they always wanted. They have dressed celebrities like Lenny Kravitz, the Spice Girls, ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Madonna, and recently signed a 10-year licensing deal with Diesel.

“Nothing comes from nothing,” says Willowdale, Ontario-native Dean Caten, on the telephone from Milan. “You must work hard to be successful. If you’re not willing to sacrifice, you won’t get there.

Dean and Dan accepted a special invitation to show their Winter 2003 collection at Toronto’s Fashion Week this week with a mixed video and live presentation.

“This is not a traditional show,” explains Dean, “and we felt it would be strange to try to reproduce it exactly. So, we are bringing a little bit of Milan to Toronto. It’s much more effective to do it this way.”

Their unconventional approach attracted a lot of attention at the Milan winter shows, including that of Giorgio Armani, who attended the D-Squared show.

“That was a great honour for us, because he doesn’t go to other things,” says Dean. “But our show was very un-Milan. Any good fashion designer would be curious.”

The theme of this show is “homeless.”

“Some people might take it the wrong way,” says Dean, “but we are taking a negative and making it a positive. Homeless people are brave, independent, courageous and free. We are celebrating their style, but not making light of their situation.”

Dean and Dan are inspired by things that are not typically fashion.

“We consider our clothes to be real. We want people to look cool – not dressed up. We design what we want to wear ourselves. When people find stuff that is real, they respond.”

Dean recounts a conversation he had with a kid at a nightclub that was a clue to D-Squared’s ability to connect with the market. “He said ‘You guys are real. You’re here in this club dancing – not sitting in an office thinking about what kids want to wear.'”

“It’s not authentic if you’re not living it,” adds Dean. “We’re down to earth, we don’t hold airs, and we’re happy to see anybody wearing our clothes. You don’t have to be a superstar.”

But, of course, superstars are wearing D-Squared.

“Madonna was a big, big deal for us,” says Dean, “because she has always been a huge inspiration. She saw somebody wearing our jeans and wanted them, and wanted to know everything about us.”

In New York, at Madonna’s exclusive Roseland concert to promote her album Music, Dean and Dan were invited to meet her. “She was meditating backstage before the show, and wasn’t seeing friends,” Dean explains. “Not even Donatella.”

“But she had never met us before, so she said ‘Send them back.’ We got to her dressing room – it was all like slow motion – and there she was, in full makeup, like a video come to life. And she said ‘So, what do you think of my jeans?'”

Dean and Dan’s clothes are featured in Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me” video, and they created more than 150 pieces of clothing for the Drowned World tour.

“It’s always great to see celebrities wearing our clothes, but we had the opportunity to have a real working relationship with Madonna that was very fulfilling.”

They’ve had countless celebrity moments, including an opportunity to create the wedding dress for Mel B Of The Spice Girl.. “They were fun,” remembers Dean. “We were picked up in New York to go to their concert. We thought we were going to Madison Square Gardens. The next thing you know, we’re at the airport, getting on a private jet, and flying to Buffalo. They’re real brats. Chic, young, trashy and hilarious.

“You have to be born to be in fashion,” says Dean. “It grows inside of you from a very young age and continues to develop. We’re not in it for the money. We just want to live our life.”

* Toronto Fashion Week’s big Rocks The Runway event is on Fri, Mar 22 at 8pm at the Liberty Grand. Tickets are $40 advance; call (416)870-8000. For other events, check out

* D-Squared Show & Party.

$15 at the door. 9pm. Thu, Mar 21.

Liberty Grand.

25 British Columbia Rd.

(416) 954-9896.