Peter Dundas is every inch the fashion designer, in the gilded mould of an immaculately turned-out creator devoted to his women. Dundas’s clothes stand for sex and success – the mood has been one of “up” since his first season at Pucci, autumn/winter 2009. During his tenure there, he has moved the house forward to mean much more than pretty signature prints – to be a Dundas woman now is to live hedonistically, dancing till dawn, gliding from private jet to yacht to VIP booth at the club. Such a lifestyle obviously requires dazzling clothes. Dundas lives in Paris and works in Florence, and is pretty much the male equivalent of the girl he dreams – he’s wearing a white blazer, an unbuttoned shirt and alligator boots when he sits down to chat during a rare visit to London.
Dean Mayo Davies: Do you think if you had your own eponymous label it would be similar to your vision for Pucci?
Peter Dundas: Probably. I think I’ve always had the same type of girl in mind. For Pucci she’s inherently a little bit more colourful, but her vibe is the same – I like a girl who has fun but has a brain, a sense of humour, who wears clothes that make her happy and make her feel special. If I was a girl I would want that. So I like girls that do.
DMD: Your clothes seem at home in the night, as part of a hyper-glamorous scene…
PD: They tend to be worn at night very much and I think that inspires me because it’s a lifestyle. I do things that are considered ‘glam’, so they obviously look good under the lights.
DMD: Have you always had this viewpoint?
PD: No, but I always loved a good night out on the tiles. (laughs) So it’s more apt to take it from there…
DMD: Where is good for a night out?
PD: Now I’ve become very grown-up and a very serious designer, so you have to tell me! Last time I was in London I was at The Box. I go to the usual places – Raspoutine in Paris, The Penthouse at the Standard in New York. I actually live on top of a nightclub in Paris. You can see where there might be moments of stress, having lived through coming home at 4am or 6am after a good night out.
DMD: Sounds noisy. Doesn’t it disturb you?
PD: Sometimes. It’s more that it disturbs me when I have to get up at 5am to take a flight and somebody’s having a fight out in the street. Hearing drunk conversations when you’re sober is a really strange thing. You’re kind of counting, like, ‘Okay, one less hour of sleep until I have to get up.’ It’s annoying but you have to try to be indulgent.
DMD: Fashion today is more international than ever – designers can have their studios outside of the country where their houses are based. Do you feel that you can work internationally or is it important for you to be in Florence at the Pucci headquarters?
PD: You need to be wherever your studio is. If you can have your studio on your home turf that works too – it depends if your structure supports that and if you feel the need for it. I’ve travelled – I moved away from home when I was 14 and I’ve always been on the road. It was kind of my angle when I started working. I’d land these jobs that involved a lot of travelling as it was no big deal for me, I could take it. Being in Florence in terms of recruiting is an issue, whether people want to move there.
DMD: You moved to America at 14. How did that affect you?
PD: It happened quite naturally at the time, though in retrospect I don’t know if I would have let my kid move away when he was 14. I guess my dad didn’t have very much of a choice, it was either that or I went real pear-shaped. But it was great, it was a very new experience for me because Norway was so totally different. I think it’s really good to experience different parts of the world. I mean, I would probably have waited a few more years with my kids but I would definitely encourage them to do it.
DMD: Have any of these places shaped you in particular or is it all part of the story?
PD: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think it’s all one thing for me, I have fragments of my life in different places, and it really feels like that as well, like you kind of have certain parts of your existence in a box there and another one there. It comes in handy sometimes. When I’m in Florence, I’m really focused on work and when I get back to Paris I can play some more. New York is another story again.
DMD: Your job means that you have your picture taken quite a lot. How do you feel about that?
PD: I feel fortunate when I like the picture. But I’m usually very uncomfortable.
DMD: Does it come with the job? You dress a lot of high-profile people…
PD: When I’m with them and the camera’s involved I feel more than ever like a designer, there’s not that focus on me. I don’t think about it very much. I’m part of the crew, a stagehand. (laughs)
DMD: Very embellished ready-to-wear, or ‘demi-couture’, has been rising in popularity over the past couple of years. Do you believe the dedication to having three fittings is not in sync with a client’s lifestyle any more?
PD: It’s funny, I was saying that in a management meeting last week. There is interest, there is that focus and it has to exist. Sometimes I do projects that are custom-made because people want that. But you said ‘demi-couture’, and I think that’s key as well. Couture, by the original rules, with its three fittings, requiring a certain amount of attention to each garment, is amazing, but I don’t think you can always do that today – there’s very, very few people that have the time for that. So you can do this demi-couture and adjust something to the person individually, which I like to do very much. I wish I could do it on everybody.
DMD: What’s been your greatest experience so far?
PD: On a personal level, it was probably my first show as creative director when I was at Ungaro. I was Norwegian, I didn’t look the part and I thought they were going to eat me alive. It was so crazy anyway, I had another job, my day job at Cavalli, during my first season, so I had to do everything at night, with fittings at 2am in my bedroom. Anna Wintour was coming and I had three outfits ready – there was nothing to show. It was my first hardcore lesson in keeping light conversation! I really had no idea how it was going to turn out and it turned out one of my most exciting moments.
DMD: What’s on your nightstand at the moment? Fiction or non-fiction?
PD: I have blank paper on my nightstand and a pen. Always.
DMD: Inspiration comes to you overnight?
PD: Very much so. Often when you’re in that moment of waking up in the morning there are some things that make sense. We are, or I am at least, my own worst enemy, and the design process is about setting your mind free. That tends to happen when I’m in this semi-awake state. For some reason things just seem clearer.
DMD: Tell us something we wouldn’t expect of you…
PD: I bake bread. Well, I know how to bake bread. I don’t do it very often.
TEXT DEAN MAYO DAVIES
PHOTOGRAPHY GARETH McCONNELL
DAZED & CONFUSED, SEPTEMBER 2012