Stefano Gabbana, Dolce & Gabbana‘s co-founder and co-designer, has already said he doesn’t care if you boycott his and Domenico Dolce’s brand because of his unpopular opinions regarding Melania Trump; in fact, he even launched a line of $245 “#BOYCOTT DOLCE & GABBANA” t-shirts.
So you know the designer isn’t one to hold his tongue, even if it leads to backlash (even if its from his own models). His take on the recent wave of sexual harassment and assault scandals rocking the corridors of power from Hollywood to Washington to his own industry is certain to cause further waves.
At this point, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, those who haven’t already spoken out about sexual assault—in support of the victims, of course, whether initially or in a blundered apologetic statement after the internet came for them—they’re probably pointedly avoiding the topic, like the stars who’ve now taken to skipping red carpets to avoid tough questions. That, it turns out, is not the case for Gabbana, who seems to have simply just not had the opportunity to broach the subject in public and on the record until this Thursday, when he gave an interview with Dolce to British Vogue—one that begins with Gabbana almost predictably saying, “I am not politically correct.”
When the conversations lands on the “sexual harassment cases sweeping through politics and showbiz at the moment,” as Vogue puts it, Gabbana makes that more than clear. “It’s not new!” he said in protest. “Luchino Visconti asked Helmut Berger and Alain Delon to go in the bed,” he said, pointing to the late Italian director and his younger actor muses. “But listen, you decide. It’s true. Everybody knows. After 20 years you say, ‘Ah! He touched my ass!’ It’s not violence, this.”
Gabbana is correct on one count: the systemic violence that (often white) men in power have long been allowed to perpetrate is far from new—a point that’s worth insisting on, as it’s key to understanding and moving forward with addressing rape culture and how sexual assault is pervasive across all industries, not just fashion or Hollywood. But Gabbana is patently wrong on the idea that this type of conduct is not violence—especially when it’s orchestrated on such a systemic level against women in particular. In other words, whether or not a single unwanted encounter is traumatizing, an accumulation of such mistreatment over the course of one’s career is practically guaranteed to leave at least some sort of mark.
Especially when there’s an uneven power dynamic, as there often is in the work place, unwanted sexual advances are, after all, most often acts of violence and exercises in power rather than sexual overtures—not that Gabbana seems to see a difference in whether or not pleasure or even consent is involved. “Who doesn’t do sex? Who doesn’t? It’s a trend. Now the trend is sex. But sex is an old story. We are Italian. We came from the Roman Empire. We know very well,” he continued.
“I am not Mussolini. I am not God. It’s just my opinion,” Gabanna clarified, in case you’d mistaken those words for Italian and Roman dogma.
The designer also turned to his Italian heritage to defend his support of Melania Trump: “I’m not American, I’m Italian. I really don’t care about American politics. You do what you want. I’m a designer! She’s a customer. She was before she became first lady. In the game of newspapers and TV, everything is business,” he said, before offering a belief that’s definitely the best explanation for his outspokenness as of late yet. “If you make it interesting,” he added, “you can talk about it.”
Stefano & Domenico’s Dolce Vita
Stefano Gabbana at home in Portofino.
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