It was a chance encounter that convinced Dan and Dean Caten to pursue careers in fashion design. “In Canada, everyone takes off their shoes at the front door,” says Dan, who was born in Toronto and currently lives with his identical twin in London. “My older brother had this hot girl at the house, and she had left her hot boots in the mud room—they were grey suede with a platform. We were in awe of them. I said [to Dean], ‘You know, I’d make the heel a little bit higher and add a star over here’—that’s how we got started!” Now, Dan and Dean are the sartorial force behind outdoorsy-glam label DSquared2 and have launched everything from fragrances to—you guessed it—footwear. ELLE caught up with Dan to talk about unlikely inspirations, fall fashion and those other famous Canadian brothers, Bob and Doug McKenzie.
What’s your design process like?
“First we come up with a theme, and then everything flows from there. So [for fall/winter 2010/2011] the theme was hockey, and we started thinking ‘What is hockey?’ We watched videos and realized that it’s violent and bloody—like ‘hockey horror.’ And hockey horror kind of sounds like Rocky Horror, so…. We work in weird contrasts. We’re always together, and we brainstorm all the time.”
Your fall 2011 collection had a True Grit vibe. What was your inspiration?
“The movie Cold Mountain. Nicole Kidman looks so cool in it, and it’s about being in the cold and wearing lots of layers— it’s kind of Canadian in a weird way. We liked the petticoat shapes and the long, sweeping skirts, and we used a lot of leather and fur. So [the inspiration] was really ‘rebel-biker meets early-pioneer girl.’”
Why is it important to include aspects of your Canadian identity in your collections?
“We love the fact that we’re Canadian; it’s identifiable to us and we’re proud of it. Our most Canadian runway was the Great White North show. The music was hysterical: We mixed the ‘Ontario’ song with a clip of Bob and Doug McKenzie talking.”
She’s not Canadian, but she made you famous. You created 150 pieces for Madonna’s 2002 Drowned world tour. Was that your big break?
“Yes! It all started with her ‘Don’t Tell Me’ video. She called us and said, ‘I’m in love with what you do.’ So we did the rodeo-girl shirt and the #1 tee with a foxtail for her. When Madonna says you’re cool, that’s a big stamp of approval. After that, we created sexy looks for Britney [Spears] for her Circus tour.”
What is something people don’t know about you?
“We’re great bowlers! When we’re in Noventa [in Italy, where they have a factory], after dinner we usually end up at the bowling alley with all the kids. We’re almost professionals.”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.