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Fashion Diary: Pucci's star is rising

May 21, 2010 |  4:17 pm
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At the Cannes Film Festival this year, everyone from Eva Longoria Parker to Eva Herzigova to Evangeline Lily was wearing Emilio Pucci. Peter Dundas, the new designer for the Florentine fashion house, has become the go-to guy for the red carpet set. And why not? He can make one dreamy dress, whether it's the ethereal teal-print gown Sarah Jessica Parker is wearing on the posters for " Sex and the City 2" or the dramatic, navy-and-black cutaway design Sienna Miller chose for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute gala last month.


In the last 15 years, Dundas has worked for Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Roberto Cavalli, Emanuel Ungaro and Revillon. But nowhere has his talent clicked so perfectly as at Pucci, where he assumed the role of creative director in 2009.

While the designers before him who tried to revive the Pucci brand (Lacroix and Matthew Williamson) seemed to take their cues mostly from the house's color and print heritage, Dundas has also referenced the athleticism and body-consciousness of the Pucci designs to spectacular effect. After all, Emilio Pucci's career began in 1947 when he created a sleek ski outfit with a printed jacket and stretch pants that was photographed on the slopes in Switzerland by Harper's Bazaar. And from then on, the resort clothing and active wear for a new jet set became the foundation for the Italian aristocrat's business.

With just three collections, Dundas has established a brash, sexy identity for the house. The spring collection is based on a diving trip he took in the Maldives, with scuba-inspired zip-front jackets with artful cutouts, cotton "sail cloth" trousers that snap up the sides and flowing, racer-back gowns.

Kate-hudson-pucci-sag But it's the red carpet that is making Dundas an international name. His arrival on the world stage came at the SAG Awards in January, when Kate Hudson wore his jaw-dropping white jersey gown with a plunging back that raised the question, "How low can you go?"

"When I do things, they need to be done at their utmost, to really be pushed," he said. "If you do a plunging back, it must really plunge to be special."

Since that moment, starlets have been lining up to wear his clothes. It doesn't hurt that Dundas is pretty dreamy himself with his shaggy blond hair and surfer ease (that's kite surfing). In fact, on a recent trip to L.A., he charmed everyone in his wake — both male and female.

"I love sex and sensuality, but more because it's part of life than that it's my angle," he said. "I come from a family of doctors, so the body is something I feel connected to. When I design clothes, I take into consideration the body. It's about freedom and cutting away things. But it's not such a conscious effort to want to be sexy at any price."

Dundas was born in Norway to a Norwegian father and an American mother. His earliest interest in fashion came from shopping thrift stores. By age 7, he had a sewing machine and was customizing old clothes. At the same time, he began acting on stage at the Royal Theatre in Oslo. "That was a fantastic experience and good exposure when it comes to the effect costumes and visuals can have."

At age 14, he moved to Indiana to live with relatives. "It was exotic for me to be a normal teenager and play varsity sports," he said. After high school, he headed to Parsons School of Design in New York. Then it was back to Europe, where he lives now in Paris, commuting often to the Palazzo Pucci in Florence.

"I'm approaching this project with a lot of affection," he said. "I remember seeing Pucci in magazines as a kid. I was obsessed with Hollywood and images of Elizabeth Taylor wearing it and Jackie O."

Dundas' first real experience with the brand came in 1999, when he went to see a collection of Marilyn Monroe's personal belongings being auctioned off at Christie's in Paris. "I remember seeing two huge racks full of Pucci," he said. "It's a brand that represents a lifestyle; it's what stars wear."

Accessories are becoming a focus too. The Marquise bag, the brand's first entry into "it" bagdom, is named after Laudomia Pucci, the only surviving daughter of Emilio Pucci, the Marquis of Barsento. "I wanted something that was quite classic with the chain handle and twist lock, but at the same time surprising, which is why you have those piercing effects," Dundas said. "I like to think of the Pucci girl as the rebel aristocrat."

It's a tantalizing image, and one that has quickly elevated Dundas to the rock 'n' roll design ranks of Balmain's Christophe Decarnin and Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci on the international runway show circuit. "I thought it would take a lot more time to get people's attention and that I could make my mistakes a little more secretly," he said. "But I like that the brand is showing different facets of itself."

Indeed. After downing a coffee, Dundas left for dinner with pop star Ciara and a glittery book party honoring Derek Blasberg. Then it was time to come back down to earth and visit his American relatives. After a red-eye flight to Chicago, he was bound for South Bend, Ind.

-- Booth Moore

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Top photo: Eva Longoria Parker at Cannes. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images. Bottom photo: Kate Hudson at the SAG Awards. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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