The memorable photographs shot by Ferdinando Scianna sculpted in the world’s imagination an icon of sensuality, strength and Mediterranean beauty. Marpessa Hennink, the girl who gave a body, face and soul to that timeless muse, the Dolce&Gabbana woman, speaks about her role.
The Dolce&Gabbana Fall Winter 87/88 advertisement campaign shot by Ferdinando Scianna saw you as a protagonist: how did it happen?
Having spotted Domenico’s and Stefano’s talent during a show for emerging
designers in 1985, I agreed to carry on collaborating with them even though
funds were low at that time. I had fallen in love with their clothes. I remember
one show where their dresses transformed themselves: we would show one dress,
and then change behind a screen and we’d go back on the catwalk with a
completely different dress, which was just the same dress as before but inside
out. I keep one of those dresses in my personal archive. The atmosphere in their
atelier was very convivial, typical of an Italian family, that’s where our
For their first advertisement campaign, they chose the only Italian and Sicilian photographer on the Magnum agency’s books: on the basis of his books about Sicily. He hadn’t done fashion photography before, and because he was a photo reporter he didn’t even have an assistant! Since Stefano and Domenico did not have a high budget at the time, I did my own make up and the stylist, Antonella Anotnelli helped me with the hair. We travelled the length and breath of Sicily in Domenico’s brother’s car and another rented one. It was all a big adventure, following Scianna in different places and “throwing” myself in Fellinian scenes. But it was magical. Even though were sceptical to start with, those images left a mark in the history of fashion both for me and D&G.
is still present in the DOLCE&GABBANA style today?
The profound love for the Mediterranean woman: seductive, strong, contradictory and maternal.
Did you know Sicily before you met Domenico and Stefano?
Only through movies like The Leopard, and of course the Godfather. I also went to Taormina once on location for work. But getting to know Sicily with Domenico and Ferdinado, two authentic Sicilians, was a really precious and unforgettable experience.
You became a DOLCE&GABBANA icon: did you ever feel restrained by
Never! To the contrary, it amuses me that still today people thing I’m from southern Italy as I’m Dutch with a quarter of black blood. I am of course very proud of having been their fist muse and a witness of their immense success!
Three adjectives to describe the DOLCE&GABBANA woman.
Seductive, strong and contradictory.
adjectives to describe the DOLCE&GABBANA man.
Seductive, strong and vain.
Thee adjectives to define Marpessa.
Maternal, generous, strong.
Three adjectives to describe Marpessa’s perfect man.
Honest, cultures, intelligent.
Your breathtaking body and beauty allow you to still model today: has
the backstage changed?
I don’t think much has changed. The only thing is that today I feel a bit like a black sheep, even though deep down I think I have always been one!
Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter? Why?
I rather Facebook as first of all its allowed me to get back in touch with people who I care about but lost touch with over the years. Also I live in a secluded place, especially in winter, so for me its a window onto the world and my friends’ lives who are far. Facebook is more personal and intimate, if you know how to use the privacy settings that is! I don’t love Twitter, especially as I don’t understand its utility, apart from self-celebration, which is a thing I’m very allergic to! I understand that today there are many complementary forms of communication and promotion.
Where does Marpessa live at the moment? Still all over the
I’ve been living in Ibiza for years now, it’s the perfect base for my nomadic life, I’m a citizen of the world.
If you could go back in time, what would you not do again?
Uff! Where so I start?!
And what would you do again100%?
What don’t you like about today’s world?
The inequality, injustice, avarice and rudeness!
Now, its your turn to ask a question to Domenico and Stefano.
Dear friends, when are you going to nominate me as an official ambassador?
Marpessa's autograph for her Swide fans.
Interview by: Giuliano Federico
All pictures, unless stated otherwise, are taken from the book, Marpessa, by Ferdinando Scianna
see marpessa in action