Designer twins crowned new kings of Milan

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The Independent Online

They are best pals with Christina Aguilera, hang out with Naomi Campbell, throw the hottest parties in Milan and count Lenny Kravitz as their "main man".

They are best pals with Christina Aguilera, hang out with Naomi Campbell, throw the hottest parties in Milan and count Lenny Kravitz as their "main man".

Dean and Dan Caten, the boys behind the Milan-based label DSquared2, stole the spring/summer 2005 menswear shows in Milan yesterday with a little help from the "dirrty" girl herself, who offered her services gratis because "she wanted to party with the guys".

It is an amazing success story for the 39-year-old Canadian-born twins, who did not study fashion and garnered their experience working for a catalogue in Canada before moving to Milan to "chance their arm".

Since launching the label in 1995, DSquared2 has achieved cult status among men for a look that's not so much homo, hetero or metro-sexual: just sexual. The butt-hugging, low-slung jeans and cowboy shirts that the brothers put together for Madonna's "Tell Me" video and subsequent Drowned World tour made their name. But the designers have since carved a niche in Milan with shows that force even the sourest fashion editors to crack a smile.

Like Dolce & Gabbana, DSquared2 threw a pool party for spring/summer 05 on their runway at the Milan nightclub Alcatraz. Only the Catens didn't stop there. They asked the Cappellini design studio to build an Ibizan-style villa with balconies, bedrooms, DJ decks and pool around which a sculpted pantheon of male models posed.

As the invitation read, "It takes all types to turn the world round. DSquared2 takes the pleasure to turn it out". Turn it on would be more like it. Forget encouraging men to find their feminine side, DSquared2 is all about hunks in trunks, sawn-off denim shorts, lounge lizard white silk twill suits and poolside sweatpants. "We love to go out in Milan and it's great to hear guys coming up and telling us we're designing for their lives," Dan Caten says. "Hell, we're designing for our lives.".

"We didn't pay Christina", says Nicole Brown, the communications director of DSquared2. "She shares the same birthday with Dean and Dan [19 December] and they flew over to LA for her party last year. She's returning the compliment. She came because she wanted to party with the guys."

Dan Caten says of Aguilera's guest appearance: "Nobody feels like they're working at our shows. Christina was walking for fun and when it ceases to be fun it's over for us".

As well as "DSquared2 main man Lenny Kravitz", Naomi Campbell is also a great pal. DSquared2's ad campaign for autumn/winter 2004 is a comic storybook shot by Steven Klein in which Campbell plays Guadalupe; an errant floozie surrounded by Mounties in a script penned by Dean and Dan. No other fashion house could get away with it: particularly in poker-faced Milan.

"I don't think they saw us coming," says Dan. "Milan wasn't ready for DSquared2 and by the time they noticed we'd already arrived. The key thing is that we didn't try to fit in. That's the cool part. We just keep doing what comes naturally."

A silhouette behind a terrazzo door and the opening beats of "Dirrty" announced the arrival of Aguilera. With Barbie blonde curls, black leather mini dress and stilettos that defied gravity, Aguilera erupted into a bump and grind around DSquared2's villa. She ripped the shorts from a sculpted Adonis to reveal micro mini swimming trunks that suggested the male model enjoyed Aguilera's attention. Like a seasoned burlesque queen, she plunged her hands inside white satin twill tuxedos to squeeze the glistening torsos beneath before shimmying over to a doe-eyed guy in the tightest leather trousers imaginable and giving him a buff.

It is an achievement to get the Milan fashion pack off its jaded behinds at 10am in the morning and Aguilera had grown men (and the many flamboyant gentlemen in the audience) squealing like Beatles fans. Flanked by the designers, Tsunami Aguilera was carried from the catwalk like a swan at an Oxbridge banquet leaving a room full of perspiring, smiling men in her wake.

All in a day's work.

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