Fausto Puglisi’s vibrant, energetic style brings colour and fascination to the fashion world season on season. The designer’s bold creativity has seen him gain a strong cult following of clients looking for clothes that make a statement and bring happiness and colour to their lives.
The Italian designer’s creations reflect his heritage, combined with modern experiences bringing together his Italian heritage and his fascination with American culture. Born in Sicily, Puglisi was inspired by fashion from a young age. He befriended two traditional tailors who had made a suit for his grandfather and he would spend most of his time in the local boutiques, fascinated by the techniques. In 1999 he moved to America, where his fascination with the country was born. It was here he began to design, creating small quantities of designs by hand as he discovered the country.
In 2010, once back in Italy, Puglisi launched his own label; Fausto Puglisi. He was taken under the wing of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana who invited him to be part of their retail project Spiga 2, which featured a mix of young, unknown international designers. His designs sold out within days. This pushed him to start showing his designs at Milan Fashion Week. By 2013 he was showing his full collection on the runway, as well as having many international celebrity clients that helped to make the designer a household name. Puglisi’s unique creations are inspired by the romance of the past, but with a modern twist. The classicism of ancient Roman sculptures, the opulence of Baroque architecture, the hedonism of Bacchanal or even contemporary Hollywood revelry, and the quiet reserve of 1950s couture, are all continuous fruits of inspiration. Here we discuss with Puglisi his continuous inspiration from his country and how he has interpreted that in his own unique way.
What does Italy mean to you personally?
Italy is my DNA, it is in my blood! This country represents culture, excess, opera, theatre, literature, cars and the greatest food. We breathe beauty in every corner here in Italy, and to create beauty becomes a natural approach and reaction. Italy is with me in every breath I take, in every design I do. Prêt-à-Porter was born here in Italy in the early 70s. Italy is a way of life.
Tell us more about the importance of “Made in Italy” and why do you think there is such a fascination with this concept globally?
Here in Italy, you can find the essence of art at its best, from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, to Renzo Piano’s modern dreams, to ancient Greek sites. Italy is the essence of creativity and there is a great devotion to the arts. There’s no place in the world with such a historical consciousness of beauty and deep knowledge. It’s our tradition and we like to share this sense of beauty with the rest of the world. So many American actors have Italian roots. From Liza Minnelli to Robert De Niro, Frank Sinatra, Madonna and Lady Gaga. They are all part of our big Italian family. Italy is colourful and dark both at the same time, we put our sense of music in every single thing we do. We are unique. There’s no place like Italy.
Italy has suffered greatly throughout the global pandemic we are currently experiencing – when all of this is over what do you expect to see from the recovery of this crisis?
During the lockdown, I’m reflecting a lot and thinking about my future steps. The world needs much more respect. Living in Italy I know I can make a business from what’s beautiful, slow and loyal. The food, the best marble craftsmanship etc. It should be the same with fashion. We don’t need to rush. I like to live my life surrounded by beauty and love, without hysteria, engaging with my artisans and respecting them. The fashion world has seen too many collections and too much marketing. Let’s just think about creating beautiful products at the right time, with the right devotion. This is the only way to win going forward.
In every crisis, there is always an opportunity – what is something positive that will come out of this painful situation?
We are trying to understand how so many things that we used to take for granted are not granted at all. Everything can change in a second and this is a beautiful lesson. I’m grateful for being who I am, my passions, my family, my work. I will keep on living my life with loyalty, working hard and believing in high quality. The quality of human relationships, the quality of readings, and the quality of production. I create and sell dreams not illusions. It’s important to take care of the people around the world that are less fortunate than me. I understand now more than ever, that life is like one of my Italian embroideries. It needs care, devotion, love, attention, time and respect. And most of all, a big dose of humanity.
When all of this is over will you be changing any of the strategies of the brand and has it had an impact on how you will move forward?
Since my brand was born I have always focused on quality, beauty and Italian heritage. Honestly, in the last few years, we have seen a triumph of fast fashion sold as luxury. But of course, this isn’t real fashion. I’m proudly not creating this kind of “fashion”. I like to collect art, I love my dogs, my flowers, my friends, I love to visit the museums, to enjoy a coffee in Rome, I don’t believe in trends. I only believe in high quality and beautiful dresses. Values and Loyalty are important in everything we do and that will continue after this crisis.
Do you think it will impact the buying behaviour of customers?
I love my customers and they want to be surprised by me, which I think is beautiful, and in that respect, I think this will continue. I have decided to stay away from stores that mix high end and contemporary fashion. In life, you go left or right, you can’t take both directions at the same time so you can make a sweatshirt using beautiful cotton, voila, it’s modern and it’s high quality and that must be recognised. At the end of the day, all I care about is my clients and my values. People need beautiful clothes for their celebrations of life, or to go to work, and here I am, doing it in my Italian way.
With many major Fashion weeks are cancelled, how do you feel the industry will react moving forward?
The fashion world is old, there are too many clothes, too many collections, too much marketing… The department stores are closing, the buyers of the stores don’t like to explore, but they want to be safe. And you can’t be safe all the time. We need something new. Something that has courage! Fashion needs to come back to its roots. The industry has become too obsessed with the young generations but these young people will get tired soon and change their minds about what they want. This is the beauty of Youth. But a real business can’t worry about this. My clients are of all ages and I respect them all. Fashion lost its natural sense of beauty and that needs to come back.
Tell us about your latest SS20 collection. The inspiration, the aesthetics and fabrics.
My spring/summer collection is very Italian because it’s sexy, colourful and happy! There’s also a tropical approach. When I was in Miami I found a beautiful tie-dyed fabric in my favourite souvenir shop. I fell in love with the print. Then I went to Como, in Italy and I started to design a great black cage of palms leaves which can also look like an animal print. I wanted my best fabric makers from Como to support in developing it and it was magic. From emerald to aquamarine, yellow to deep orange, it is a sunset dream.
I know you love Dubai a lot, how was your experience when you were last here and what is it in your opinion that makes this city unique?
Dubai is magical. It’s beautiful and unique! First of all, I love and respect the culture. There is such a great sense of beauty and high quality. People in Dubai like Italian fashion, Italian cars and Italian food. You have a great cultural heritage, and it’s magical to see the past and the future coming together. The last time I was in Dubai, a year ago, I wanted to understand more about the traditions of the fishermen, the beautiful old boats, the sea, the old villas near the sea. People from the Emirates understand beauty because it’s a part of their DNA. Also, I am obsessed with the traditional fashion of the UAE. It is extremely elegant. Another thing I love is the gates of your villas. Last time I came, I told my driver to stop in front of every gate to enjoy that beauty of the craftsmanship. I posted all of these on my Instagram page because each gate is a jewel. I love the way Dubai has an international approach, but what I like most is the magic of its heritage.
What is the first thing you will do when this situation is over?
I can’t wait to go out, to see my friends, to hug them, I want to go to Piazza Duomo in Milan, I want to breathe the fresh air, to take a train to Rome, eat out in the restaurants. I miss seeing the Colosseum.
Growing up, what are some of your first memories of Italy?
I was born in Sicily, and I have always loved to dress up and I was inspired by Gianni Versace. My childhood was amazing, The Christmas tables, the food, my family, the lights, my family. We used to go on holiday to Calabria. We had the hottest summers at the beach, enjoying Sicilian ice creams. All of this will live in my mind forever. My creativity starts with these memories.
Where in Italy do you like to travel to/your favourite city and why?
I love Rome, Naples, and the south of Italy. Sicily of course, Taormina, Palermo. I also adore visiting the Vatican museums in Rome and the archaeological museum in Naples…and then eating seafood by the sea. It is fantastic and very Italian. I can’t wait to enjoy it again!
Can you share with us any Italian traditions that you have with your family and friends?
Spending all day at the beach, under the sun, during the summertime. Getting a suntan, I live for the sea. Also watching Totò movies or Eduardo De Filippo theatre masterpieces on the television during the Christmas holidays, while eating Sicilian cannoli.
How are you spending your quarantine days and what do you tell yourself every morning?
I’m living my quarantine days with extremely positive vibes. I’m reading a lot, watching my favourite Italian old movies from the 60s and the 70s. I’m listening to my favourite American music and getting inspired. I’m sketching so much, day and night, I don’t look at my watch, I don’t mind what time it is. And finally, I am taking care of my beautiful plants and flowers, playing with my dogs and enjoying the sun. The spring in Milan is beautiful!
What’s your favourite Italian phrase?
My favourite Italian phrase is “la vita e’ bella!” It means “life is beautiful”.
How would you describe Italy in one word?
I prefer to use two words… sexy and beautiful.