This Fausto Puglisi dress from Holt Renfrew came to hang in the #ELLECanadaCloset
fausto Puglisi is the kind of man who could make you believe anything. I notice this almost as soon as I sit down across from him at Holt Renfrew in Toronto, where his namesake brand is carried exclusively in Canada. When the Sicilian-born fashion up-and-comer starts comparing the design process to good sex (“You don’t want to second-guess or think too much or it’s terrible”), I actually feel my face redden. But besides his looks (and that Italian accent), his charm is rooted in how assured he is in his vision.
“I always knew I wanted to be a designer,” Puglisi tells me. “Since I was four or five years old, it was an obsession. Many designers have said ‘I wanted to be an architect or something else and then decided to do fashion,’ but I grew up with this ambition. I knew I was going to be big.”
Puglisi came of age in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the most pivotal period in Italian fashion. Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace were at the apex of forging their rival style philosophies: Armani’s easy elegance and crisp tailoring versus Versace’s in-your-face excess and sex appeal. “It was like a football match,” he recalls. “If you were with Versace, then you couldn’t be with Armani.” As for who inspired the young talent the most? “Versace, for sure,” he says, gesturing to a rack of bold-print, OTT-embellished, neon-splashed dresses and separates from his fall/winter 2015 collection, which references Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent’s muse Loulou de la Falaise. Since launching his label in 2010 and being named creative director at Emanuel Ungaro in 2012, Puglisi has often been compared to the late Mr. Versace—his clothes are not for the faint of heart. “I design for strong personalities,” he says. It’s no surprise, then, that many people first heard his name when his sexy silhouettes were worn by celebs known for their brazen style, like Madonna, Katy Perry and Kendall Jenner. (Jenner’s infamous hip-high slits on the MuchMusic Video Awards red carpet instantly made her a household name.)
But while he admits that the prospect of a celebrity following excited him when he was in his 20s, the designer, now 39, says that these days he is most inspired by Italian classicism—and how to translate that dramatic opulence into a brave new way forward for the fashion industry. In his fall/winter collection, this presented as punky moto jackets elevated with baroque crosses and colour-blocked asymmetrical minidresses decked out with bejewelled sunburst medallions—all worn with combat boots. “Milan is getting very old; it needs refreshing,” he says, stretching his arm across the back of the couch. “In London, New York and Paris, you find amazing new designers. I don’t see anyone as strong as me in the younger generation. I want to be what’s new in Italy.” n
lisi Pug to us Fa