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Dolce & Gabbana shut shops to protest public criticism

A girl takes a picture of the windows of a Dolce&Gabbana closed store, displaying a newspaper article as a protest in downtown Milan July 19
A girl takes a picture of the windows of a Dolce&Gabbana closed store, displaying a newspaper article as a protest in downtown Milan July 19

By Isla Binnie

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana closed their Milan stores for three days on Friday in protest at being "pilloried" over their convictions for tax evasion in June, which they say they will appeal.

The words "Closed for Indignation" were emblazoned in the windows of the designers' shop in an upmarket street in Milan, the city where the pair showed their first collection in 1985.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were given 20-month jail terms for evading taxes on royalties of about a billion euros ($1.3 billion) by selling their brand to a Luxembourg-based holding company in 2004.

Their lawyers say they are confident of overturning the convictions. The pair are unlikely to spend time in jail due to the complexity and length of the appeals process.

"We are no longer willing to suffer undeservedly the accusations of the financial police and the income revenue authority, attacks from public ministers and the media pillory we have already been subjected to for years," they said in a statement.

The pair said they would continue to pay their more than 250 employees in Milan during the temporary closure of all their nine shops in the city.

Passers-by stopped to read an article displayed in the shop window that quoted a city councilor saying the city should not let the duo show their collections in communal spaces during the city's famous fashion week in September.

"We don't need to be represented by tax evaders," councilor Franco D'Alfonso was quoted as saying.

Famed for producing sexy corset dresses and bold patterns inspired by Dolce's native Sicily, the fashion house earned just under 1.5 billion euros in global revenues in 2011.

The case is one of the few high-profile tax evasion cases to come to light in Italy, where corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world.

"Taxes are going up all the time," said Marco Daddio, a tailor from Naples whose eye was caught by the unusual appearance of Dolce & Gabbana's shop window on Friday.

"If no one rebels, what will we do?"

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Andrew Roche)