The singer Elton John and LGBT groups are calling for a boycott of the Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana following comments (link in Italian) the brand’s designers made about gay parenting and children created through in-vitro fertilization.
“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one,” said Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, according to a translation of a joint interview with the two that appeared in the Italian magazine Panorama.
“You are born to a mother and a father—or at least that’s how it should be,” Dolce added. ”I call children of chemistry synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”
The comments, coming from two openly gay designers, shocked many, but they’re in line with the deep conservatism that has run through the duo’s viewpoint for years.
Comments the two released via their press office as the backlash intensified underline this point: ”I’m Sicilian and I grew up in a traditional family, made up of a mother, a father and children,” Dolce said. “I am very well aware of the fact that there are other types of families and they are as legitimate as the one I’ve known. But in my personal experience, family had a different configuration.”
“We talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices,” said Gabbana. “We do believe in freedom and love.”
Dolce and Gabbana were a couple for 23 years, but have said they would never get married. “I don’t believe in gay marriage,” Dolce said in a 2013 interview.
Gabbana has given mixed messages on the subject of same-sex parenting. He had stated his opposition to same-sex parents as early as 2006, but also reportedly talked about his desire to have a child through insemination, with a female friend.
An examination of the duo’s work makes their stance on non-traditional families somewhat less surprising. Their brand is deeply rooted in the heavily Catholic Italian culture where it was founded.
The label has always trafficked in images of so-called “traditional” Italian men and women, with ad campaigns that show scenes of an idealized Italian life full of big, heterosexual, white families and beautiful lighting.
Even as models of both sexes have gotten skinnier and increasingly androgynous, the pair have generally adhered to mid-century standards of masculinity and femininity. They prefer to show their menswear on the broad shoulders of macho, well-muscled guys, while their women models boast more curves than the typical high-fashion model—seductive, buxom Sophia Loren throwbacks with full red lips.
Just a few weeks ago at Milan Fashion Week, Dolce and Gabbana showed a collection in which women models stormed the catwalk toting plump babies. They called it a tribute to moms everywhere, and it evoked images of the Madonna and child, a trope the designers have riffed on in the past. It didn’t seem at the time to push any particular social message.
Since the interview, the backlash has been swift. In a comment on an Instagram photo, Elton John, who has two children with his husband, vented his anger at the designers, creating the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana. That hashtag has since spread across Instagram and Twitter, where it has already been used more than 30,000 times.
To counteract the campaign, Gabbana for one has dug in, creating his own hashtag: #BoycottEltonJohn. So far that one has only been used about 1,500 times.