This year, Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana unveiled a celebration of motherhood at Milan Fashion Week, sending models down the catwalk who were visibly pregnant or carrying little chubby-cheeked bundles of joy.
It was easy enough to divine the meaning in the Dolce and Gabbana’s latest show given that reverence for the madonna and child was one of the most prevalent motifs of the Italian renaissance. The stereotype of the Italian mama’s boy, or mammoni, isn’t one that shows signs of dissipating anytime soon.
The full-throated presence of North West, the toddler daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, on the front rows of New York Fashion Week shows may have been a source of consternation — Vogue editor Anna Wintour reportedly wants to ban babies and toddlers from the front rows of fashion shows — but Dolce and Gabbana’s homage to mother and child was seen as sweet and hardly a wellspring of controversy.
Then they opened their mouths.
Recent statements Dolce and Gabbana made to Panorama, an Italian magazine, have cast their fall-winter 2016 collection, which they named “Viva la mamma,” in an entirely new light.
In the interview, translated by the Telegraph, the couple stated: “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. … No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: Life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.”
“You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be,” Dolce said. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”
Gabbana concurred, adding, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
So now it’s worth wondering whether this year’s show was just a celebration of motherhood, or whether it was promoting a very specific idea about what motherhood should look like and how it should be achieved. In Dolce and Gabbana’s eyes, it would appear the “right” way is the old-fashioned way, modern biotechnology be damned.
Naturally, this did not sit well with some, especially Elton John, who is leading a boycott of the high-fashion label.
John, who has two children conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with his husband David Furnish, was furious.
“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,'” John wrote angrily in an Instagram caption accompanying a photo of the pair. “And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF — a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
Sunday night, “Today” show co-host Al Roker tweeted his support. “In spite of what @dolcegabbana think, my beautiful IVF children are not ‘synthetic children,'” he wrote. “I agree with @eltonjohndotcom.” Singer Ricky Martin, who has twin sons, told Dolce and Gabbana to wake up and love themselves. Dolce and Gabbana were romantic partners for 23 years, but split in 2005 and remained business partners. They do not support marriage equality.
“Just round up all my Dolce & Gabbana pieces, I want to burn them,” Courtney Love tweeted. “I’m just beyond words and emotions. Boycott senseless bigotry! #boycottD&G.”
There have always been a segment of gay men who reject marriage and children as straight, heteronormative ideals — and have disagreed with the huge focus the modern gay rights movement places on marriage and family rights. But numbers suggest those who hold that view are becoming part of a smaller, aging minority within the LGBT community. According to the 2010 census, a quarter of all gay couples in the United States are raising children. Furthermore, that growth isn’t just limited to states with laws deemed friendly to same-sex couples. If anything, it’s the opposite. A 2013 study by the Williams Institute found that states with constitutional bans on same-sex marriage had the highest concentrations of same-sex couples raising children.
Because of the expense associated with IVF — not to mention the steep price tag of Dolce and Gabbana’s wares — it’s easy to write this off as a public spat between wealthy, well-heeled gay men. But despite the fact that prevailing images of high-profile gay men raising children — such as Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, John and Furnish, Matt Bomer and Simon Halls — are overwhelmingly white, according to the Williams Institute, “same-sex couple parents and their children are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities.” Research has shown that children with same-sex parents tend to be happier and healthier than their peers.
The Human Rights Campaign offered a breakdown of which states allow joint adoption by same-sex couples. According to its latest data, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan do not permit joint adoption. Dolce and Gabbana faced heavy criticism on Twitter for their remarks, despite releasing statements Sunday walking back their more provocative language. “I was talking about my personal view, without judging other people’s choices and decisions,” Dolce reportedly said. “We talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intention to judge other people’s choices,” Gabbana said. “We do believe in freedom and love.” It wasn’t enough.
This is hardly the first time Dolce and Gabbana have faced criticism over their views on social issues. In 2012, the duo was widely criticized for sending models down the catwalk in Mammy figurine earrings many deemed racist.