We meet with Fausto Puglisi, Creative Consultant at Roberto Cavalli as he talks inclusivity, the future of fashion and understanding a new generation of luxury consumers
With a larger than life personality and a great passion for bold, daring fashion designs, Fausto Puglisi was undoubtedly a perfect choice to guide Italian fashion house Robert Cavalli into its next chapter. The Sicilian designer who opened his own brand in 2010, joined Cavalli as Creative Consultant in November 2020 and has already made a huge impact on the house. A match made in heaven it would seem; Puglisi’s values perfectly aligned with those of the brand: inclusivity, beauty and the celebration of women – values that have been important to him throughout his career, as they have been to Mr Roberto Cavalli since the beginning of the Italian House.
Since joining in November 2020, Puglisi has faced the challenges of a global pandemic and lockdowns across the world, but that didn’t stop him from getting straight to work. His first collection “Season Zero” which launches this fall, begins a new era of the brand and brings to life Puglisi’s vision. The designer is finding new ways to capture the interest of the younger generation but not forget the history and legacy of the house. Through his designs, Puglisi wants to bring the world together. No matter their culture, gender, religious beliefs or location – his vision is to empower the world through fashion and eliminate any divides that exist. With this in mind “Season Zero” revisits classic Cavalli icons including the animalier print which is a key symbol throughout the collections for men and women. It highlights the experimental and rebellious spirit of the label’s ‘70s beginnings and the red carpet glamour of the 2000s, reworking them in Puglisi’s vision for the men and women of today.
As we sit down for our video call with Puglisi, his bold personality is immediately captivating. Yes, he is undoubtedly opinionated, but only for what he truly believes in. Whether it’s his love for his home country or the challenges that lie ahead, his passion drives him in everything he does. Here we discuss Puglisi’s vision for the future of the brand and how he will continue to use his role to share this message of inclusivity.
You joined Roberto Cavalli as Creative Consultant in November 2020 – how has it been so far and what is your vision for the brand moving forward?
When I joined the brand in November 2020, I could never have imagined the kind of enthusiasm I have seen after just nine months. Just today I was shocked to wake up to read a post from Camera Buyer Italia (The Italian Chamber of Fashion Buyers) which asked “Is ‘Cavalli-ism’ the new religion?” This was amazing. And there are many other pieces of beautiful news coming out.
We had amazing collaborations with superstars of the calibre of Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez, Megan Stallion and Doja Cat – to mention some, and all are allowing us to connect to the young, cool generation. I am a dreamer and I have a big ego, but at the same time my feet are firmly on the ground, and I honestly would never have imagined this kind of reaction. We are in a moment that is difficult for the whole world, but we are still seeing some of the best international stores ordering our collections ahead of time. Retail giants such as Selfridges, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman have said “we like the collection, we want it now”. This is something totally unexpected. Usually, they wait a while to see how the collection is doing, especially with the current situation. But to have this kind of reaction in just months; it is amazing.
I must thank everyone who has supported me. Because of them, I have been able to move the brand forward and get things back on track. It’s a circle of life, in the sense that the energy I give to the people I love – fashion editors, stylists, celebrities, artists – allows them to understand my vision and therefore support me in what I’m doing. That’s what life is about and those who are supporting my vision have been incredible. This has been a beautiful surprise because there is so much competition and I could never have imagined the kind of reactions I have received. I am very grateful. I have been working really hard putting all my energy and passion into my role and I can’t wait to go on holiday and have a break! I must say, I am having a great time here, the people are amazing, and they understand and support my vision.
What is it like to be working around the codes of Cavalli but interpreting it with your vision and style – how challenging is that for you and how do you balance the two?
I have my own brand as you know, and with that, I have always had a strong vision. But at the same time, when I joined Roberto Cavalli, I felt I was the right person to translate the message of the brand because it’s very connected to music, celebrating women and their beauty and this idea of being “fast and furious”. There is a sense of embracing life. So many brands make beautiful clothing, but I believe that Cavalli is really a celebration of life and that is what it has always been. Movements like “Me Too”, “Black Lives Matter”, and human rights are a priority at this moment, and I have a political conscience in the sense that I am completely connected to what is good and right and what is wrong. So, I had to translate that through fashion for today’s world, considering all these aspects.
I completely feel the world we are living in – the good parts. I love multicultural dialogues and I always have; I love to involve people that are not just beautiful but also those who are different. This is the approach that I have always had in my own collections, and I want to do the same at Cavalli. Therefore, I started with the Season Zero collection. I didn’t want to use bright colours as I felt it would have been repeating the past, so I decided to use desert colours which are also the colours of the human skin. I wanted to create something more confident, strong, flamboyant – all the things Cavalli is about – but make it much more urban.
As a brand we must talk the new language of the universe and humanity – appealing to someone who can be a rebel but can also be beautiful – it’s extremely important to do this and to create a new Cavalli which will appeal to what the world is today. Look at what we have seen happen with Netflix for example, where talented new directors and actors are creating amazing movies that are available all around the world. There is a sense of a new consciousness of humanity and a new strength amongst the world today and I think fashion should follow this lead. We need to talk to the young generations, and we need to be on their level. We are living in a moment where everything has changed including the needs of women. We are in new times of respect and open minds and today that’s what Roberto Cavalli is about.
What are the biggest challenges you face in what you do?
I have been taking risks since I first started designing my own collections. When it wasn’t cool to talk about inclusion, I always did. My team would ask me “are you sure about this?” and I would always be sure. Nothing is too much for me. I took risks before it was fashionable to do so and it gave me strength. Now the challenge at Cavalli is to go on pushing forward and to keep bringing people together in a world that’s fluid, where everything goes. So the challenge for me is to bring these different cultures together because, in the end, we are all the same.
What do you aim to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
So many things! I am never satisfied because I’m always looking forward to what’s next. When I’m working a lot, sometimes I can’t see what I have achieved because I am running on autopilot. When you’re that busy, even when you receive amazing news, you don’t have the opportunity to let it sink in. While I take my holiday this summer I’m sure I’m going to start thinking about what’s next. When I first joined the brand, I could never have imagined that there would have been so much interest in such a short time at a difficult moment for the world and it is fantastic. I am very thankful, but I always want to do more. This is just the beginning.
To what extent do you think it’s still important to preserve the concept of “Made in Italy”?
As an Italian, I love my roots. We are open-minded, hard-working people and I love this aspect, but I feel like we are not doing enough to preserve and enhance our unique Italian excellence. Connecting that to craftsmanship, we are losing so many amazing embroiderers and craftsmen because the young generation does not want to work in this industry. It’s something that makes me disappointed, and I would love to see these abilities protected and our tradition nurtured and of course innovated. I am so proud of my Italian roots and the history of our country, I’m afraid we could lose our traditions. I love to work with artisans, to be in Como and create amazing prints with my printers, to go to Florence to see the fantastic leather craftsmanship. I love to work closely with the few embroiderers we still have. I am Italian and I am blessed, and I would love to see the new generations more into this and devoted to our Italian unique heritage and knowhow which make our country renowned and appreciated all over the world.
When are you in your most creative state of mind?
I like to visit cities such as Beirut, Miami, Paris – as these kinds of places inspire me. I’m inspired by the culture and the way people are thirsty for life. I am most inspired when I’m around enthusiastic people. But at the same time, while I love to travel, I believe we can all travel even if we are home and this is something I learnt during the lockdown last year. Yes, it was a very sad moment for the world, but I was lucky and blessed because at home I have a beautiful terrace, flowers, my dogs, I started to cook for the first time in my life. I started to watch movies. I took time to do the things I wanted to do and I took the time to design. I was locked in my house in Milan, but I created a lot. It was like I was travelling with my mind! I could concentrate, think and take my time. So yes, I like to travel because it gives me much more emotion than anything else, but this moment also allowed me to really embrace what I have and it made me realise that even if you are not in a position to travel the world, you can create your own world. You can study, you can use your imagination and you can go to places within your mind. I feel very blessed because I have been a happy person my whole life. I have always had a very open-minded approach to new people and I can find beauty everywhere.
Where is one place that you would like to travel to now?
I would love to be on Rockaway Beach in Long Island. I love this place because I like the attitude everyone has there. It’s a place of freedom where you can meet people from all different cultures. Secondly, I would like to be in Sicily because that’s where I’m from and when I visit I can remember my childhood. And of course New York, my favourite city in the world.
What is it that you fear?
I do my job with love, I am fearless of most things, but I have a fear that people could lose their sense of humanity. Italy is a fantastic country and what I want to preserve is the inner sense of humanity that makes Italy the beautiful place I grew up in and that I dream about. The risk of losing this is the only fear I have.
If you were in a place of power what is the first thing you would do for your country?
If young Italians don’t want to work as craftsmen or artisans, I would invite amazing people from other countries who want to work and learn and I would teach them the beauty of Italian art. I would create an embroidery school, a school for tailoring, for food, everything that Italy is known for and I would train them in these professions. If young Italians don’t want to do it themselves, why not teach people from [underprivileged] countries these skills and invite them to understand Italian culture and translate it with their own language?
What can we expect from the upcoming Spring/Summer 2022 collection?
Expect the unexpected.
What is the personal motto you live by?
“To dare.” I am very grateful for people like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez because since I started working with them, they have supported me and taught me to be daring. They have always told me that I can do more, and I really thank them for that because if you dare, you can achieve anything.
What is a message you would give to your fans and friends in the Middle East?
I love the Middle East and I would tell people to never lose their freedom and never lose the possibility to open their minds. If you combine an open mind with Middle Eastern roots, it will be incredible! I am in love with the culture in the Middle East because there is curiosity and there are dreams, but at the same time, there is a strong sense of respect which is very elegant. So I would tell them to remain open-minded and don’t let anyone tell them what to do, because if you keep your roots but have an open mind, you can do anything. I am Sicilian and there is a similar way of looking at the world.