Dan and Dean Caten are loving this moment in the limelight.
The twin-brother team behind the fashion label Dsquared2 are on TV and the radio, they created concert costumes for Madonna and Britney Spears, and they'll be outfitting the headlining performers at the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Earlier this year, they received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame — the only fashion designers to be honored alongside the likes of Michael J. Fox and Wayne Gretzky.
They have a collection of branded MAC cosmetics as well as eyewear and fragrance deals. But any time it seems success might go to their heads, they remember their modest Canadian roots and have a good chuckle.
Actually, they do more than chuckle, they crack each other up, communicating in shorthand that takes other people in the room a little while to understand.
"We are twins in every sense of the word," says Dan, who describes himself as the more approachable of the two — although he's also the one who'll crack the whip at work.
Dean claims he's "taller and thinner," sucking in his cheeks and striking a model-worthy pose.
Dreaming big since a young ageThey've been this close since the day they were born in 1964 in Willowdale, Ontario, and have wanted to work in fashion almost as long, Dean says. Family life was as ordinary as it could be in a household with nine kids, yet he and Dan always had an eye on a bigger picture that his family couldn't see — one that would take them to New York, Milan, Italy, and now London.
"It was normal people, growing up, just not us," Dean says. "We didn't quite fit in, but it was still fun."
Dan jumps in: "With five sisters, though, we did a lot of shopping, dressed them for a lot of proms and parties — and we dressed them! We could do it on a budget, which allowed us to be more creative, and they trusted us because they knew we knew better than them."
The way they tell it, they couldn't wait to start their careers. The first stop was a summer program at Parsons School of Design straight out of high school, but before they knew it they were back in Canada, coaxed by the owner of Ports International (now known as Ports 1961).
It was there that the Catens cut their technical teeth, learning how to cut a pattern, tailor a jacket and critique their own work. On a local scale of success, they were a hit — but the brothers weren't satisfied. It was going to be the European runway or bust.
"People say, 'Why risk everything?' But I say, 'Why not risk everything?'" Dan says.
"We chose Europe instead of New York," Dean adds, "because it was not so easy to come back home."
Still, they're proud of their Canadian roots: Maple leaves are incorporated into several designs each season.
'We're our own customer'They started in menswear in 1994 and added womenswear in 2003. Their runway shows are among the most elaborate and flashy on the Milan schedule with themes ranging from "Charlie's Angels" to "Mad Max."
Personally, they only wear clothes with the Dsquared2 label. "We're our own customer. We know what we want and need, so it's all from our heart and it works," Dean says.
(Dean has been known to act as the fitting model — even for the womenswear — because, he explains, no one else is available in the middle of the night when he does his best work. He says he has mastered high heels.)
The new spring collection has a campfire vibe, presented on the catwalk with "Delta Dawn" by Helen Reddy blaring through the speakers. "Deep down inside, we're a little 'hick,'" Dan says with a smile.
Music is a key source of inspiration, the Catens say, and they put together the playlist for their runway shows as they're sketching styles. Their famous soundtracks led to XM Radio's "Dean and Dan On Air: Style in Stereo" and now they host Bravo's new "Launch My Line," which gives artistic professionals a chance to break into the fashion biz.
When they have time for leisure remains a bit of a mystery, but, at least on this day, it seems they enjoy everything they do.
Between their day jobs as designers and moonlighting gigs as entertainers, they designed much of the interior and furniture of the home they moved into in London. They craft their own ad campaigns, and they joke — but not really — that they are toying with an album.
Still, they can't do it all.
"Don't ask me to tap dance, and Dean can't play hockey," Dan says. "But we can figure skate."