2015 is a big year for Dolce & Gabbana
, and it's not for the reason you think.
The ongoing controversy surrounding fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's views on in vitro fertilization
has largely overshadowed the fashion house's 30th anniversary.
Over the last three decades, the brand -- which is estimated to be worth up to $4 billion, and recorded $1 billion in sales last year -- has championed a voluptuous Italian aesthetic that conjures Sicily, sex and Sophia Loren.
Though the designers are no strangers to scandal (from tax evasion charges
to an ad campaign said to glorify gang rape
), they've also cultivated a reputation for romanticism, and an A-list following that includes Madonna, Isabella Rossellini, Monica Bellucci, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz.
In Hong Kong, Dolce and Gabbana opened up to CNN about 30 years of business, drama and design.
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CNN: It's the 30th anniversary of Dolce & Gabbana, which is an incredible milestone. Back in the day, did you ever imagine this level of success?
Domenico Dolce: No... When I started this job, we had a dream. We dreamed, but the dream was very complicated because (when you) dream, you don't know the future. We work every day, and at the end of the day, we believe in this job, and we believe in this work.
Stefano Gabbana: We didn't start this job to make money... We started this job because we love it. It's our life.
What was the image and style you set out to create?
DD: In the beginning, we didn't know... We didn't have the idea, the clear idea. After two seasons, we started to understand what we really love.
SG: The Italian mood. Our roots, mostly the south roots. I'm from the north, I'm Italian, I'm proud to be, but the image of the south of Italy is stronger.
How important is sex to your image?
DD: I think that in one person -- woman or man -- everything's very important... The brain is important; the sensuality, the sexuality is important... It's not just sensuality, or sexuality or intellectualism. Too much intellectualism is too boring; too much sexuality is vulgar. A good balance is what makes people interested.
A 2007 Dolce & Gabbana ad showing a woman pinned down on the ground with a group of men looking on was accused of glorifying gang rape, and caused an uproar. Was that an overreaction at the time?
DD: When we make a campaign, we never think we want to shock, or we want a problem. We don't want a problem, never... Sometimes people look with the worst ways... For us, it's a picture.
SG: We don't play for shock.
You were a couple romantically for more than 20 years before you decided to call it quits. How did you continue to work together?
DD: We broke up and we continued, and it was hard because we work in the same studio, we work at the same time, and we live the same life, but not in the same mood. I don' t know why we do this... it's the power of love. Because our love is continuous. It's not just from the sexuality, it's from the brain, a sensibility from the heart.
Was your creativity affected during that difficult time?
SG: No. Nobody knew.
DD: We stayed together.
SG: People understood after two or three years.
You kept it a secret?
SG: Yes. We don't want to show the world our private life. Because the world knows about us -- many things sometimes -- it's more correct to have a step back.
Tell me about the roles you both play. Who has the final say? Who makes the final decision?
DD: It's a balance. Sometimes him, sometimes me, sometimes everybody.
SG: Sometimes no one.
DD: For me, it's impossible to work without Stefano. We started like this, we grew up like this. It's the two voices that create a balance.
You've been an independent company for all of these years. How has that been?
SG: It's very hard, it's expensive for my mind, because you need to take care of everything. But we've got a really great team, and really great people who work with us.
Could you ever imagine going public or selling out?
SG: At the moment, no, but we think about our future because you don't have forever. Not eternity.
DD: We are a little bit old. We're starting to think about the future for the company. We start to talk... we are open-minded people.
What is the future of Dolce & Gabbana? Can you imagine doing it for another 30?
DD: We don't know. Everything is possible because, in one second, everything can change. We want to work on the label, we want to grow, we want to have the Alta Moda [Dolce & Gabbana's couture line]. We want to grow, not just for money, but because we think it's possible for us to have more ambition. Ambition to grow in a nice way.