Fausto Puglisi (image courtesy of Joyce)
These days everyone seems to be doing practical and minimalist clothes that I almost feel that we have lost some of the heady excess that that made fashion unique and exciting. That was until I discovered Italian maverick Fausto Puglisi.
Fausto has been hailed by many as the next Gianni Versace, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. I met him recently in Paris and he was dressed comfortably in a tartan shirt and jeans – the only tell tale sign of Versace-style excess was a diamond tennis bracelet on his wrist and matching solitaire stud on his ear.
A glimpse at his work on the catwalk, however, reveals his alter ego. Daring black leather harness bras and biker jackets are matched with flouncy skirts and silk shirts printed with palm tree motifs. Lavish gold beading and embellishments cover leather or pleated gladiator skirts for a bold yet sexy look.
It comes as no surprise then, that his designs are regularly spotted on street style icon and Italian fashion editor Anna Dello Russo, while A-listers including Madonna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Britney Spears are regular customers. Last year he was appointed creative director of famed fashion house Emanuel Ungaro. His own line, meanwhile, is flying off shelves at renowned retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, L’Eclaireur and Harvey Nichols Riyadh. Tonight he reaches another milestone when he hosts his first major fashion event in Asia in collaboration with Joyce. An event in Shanghai will follow.
While he may have dominated style radars only recently, he has actually been toiling in the industry since he was 18-years-old. Born and raised in Sicily, the land of Dolce & Gabanna and black lace, he was inspired to be a designer by his grandfather and the women surrounding him.
“I can’t really say how it happened. My grandfather was obsessed with tailoring, so when I was three, I would visit the tailor with him. I would examine the fabrics and watch the tailor taking measurements.
“While that’s important in my roots, my aesthetic is really about Sicily as well. We are obsessed with beauty, fashion and flamboyance. Appearance is always important – where else do people dress up for Sunday mass? Fashion is very connected to my culture and my tradition,” he says.
Despite his strong ties to Italy, it was America and its promise of freedom and liberty that lured Puglisi away from home at the age of 18. He landed in New York with a capsule collection of clothing he created with the help of a local tailor. Eventually he took on a job as a waiter to make ends meet. It was there that he met famed stylist Patti Wilson, who introduced him to other influential industry stalwarts including photographer David LaChapelle and Madonna’s stylist Arianne Phillips. Soon he began designing clothing and accessories for the Material Girl and other celebs including M.I.A and Nicki Minaj. His time in the US left such a lasting impression on him, that he has the word “Hollywood” tattooed on his forearm.
While designing for celebrities gave Puglisi plenty of exposure, his real style cred would come when he launched his ready-to-wear line in 2006. His brazen and glamorous creations featured a cacophony of embellishments, embroideries and prints that quickly grabbed headlines. Even his style mentors Dolce and Gabbana decided to showcase his work at their Milan boutique Spiga 2 – a moment he refers to as a turning point in his career.
Fausto Puglisi, Autumn/Winter 2014
“That was the moment when everything changed and people could really see my personal vision for fashion. Today women have a lot of choice from brands like MaxMara to Armani. As a young and upcoming designer it would be crazy to think you could be a MaxMara so our job is to give an emotion to people. I have to make something which is new, which is fantastic, which is a reason for people to buy it,” he says.
Admittedly his designs are not for wallflowers as evidenced in his latest autumn/winter collection, which will be shown in Hong Kong. His inspirations ran the gamut from the Ballets Russes to the Statue of Liberty, which decorated sweatshirts and came printed on silk blouses. There were leather jackets decorated with shards of glass, while spangled minis were matched with colour blocked T-shirts which were crafted from patches of coloured fabric stitched together. A tutu is embellished with colourful triangles and matched with a black leather crop top.
While the collection was typical Puglisi, it also signalled a new direction for the designer as he included more wearable, looser silhouettes including his knee length pleated skirts, sharp day dresses and loose jumpers. This is an avenue he hopes to explore further.
“I don’t want it just to be successful in terms of image, but also in business. It’s easy to make something beautiful but it’s not a priority. I like normal life – I want to mix strong incredible pieces with normal classic pieces. I want to give women the freedom to play with fashion. I want her to be able to wear one of my A-line skirts with converse and simple sweater. Women today are super smart. They are independent don’t need a designer to tell them what to wear. You ask me about trends, I don’t believe in it, they don’t exist. You can wear whatever you want,” he says.
A version of this article first appeared in the South China Morning Post. www.faustopuglisi.com