Last updated: April 28, 2012 12:53 am

‘Fashion is a muse – it will never end’

Peter Dundas and Anna Dello Russo discuss empowering women, high glamour and the ‘jet-set’ influence

Norwegian-born Peter Dundas has been the creative and artistic director at Emilio Pucci since 2008. He began his career as an assistant costume designer for the Comédie Française in Paris, and has held design roles at Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Roberto Cavalli, Ungaro and Revillon. He lives mainly in Florence.

Bari-born, Milan-based Anna Dello Russo is the editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan, and a style celebrity thanks to a penchant for changing her extravagant outfits several times a day at the fashion shows. She spent 18 years at Condé Nast Italia, starting as fashion editor of Vogue Italia and then serving as editor of L’Uomo Vogue from 2000 to 2006.

. . .

Friendship

ADR: I collect all of Peter’s iconic pieces. What I like about his style is that it’s at once cool and ultra fierce. Even if a dress is isn’t body conscious, it always makes a woman look sexy, cool – the kind of woman I like. He’s great with prints and colour, which can be tricky for many designers.

PD: It’s my interest to make clothes that make a woman shine, that make her feel empowered; it’s the kind of sexy that everyone likes. I remember when we met – it was during my first Italian job [in the Roberto Cavalli creative team] nearly 10 years ago. I was totally shy and so impressed by how focused and precise you were in your creative director role, considering the total chaos that surrounded you.

ADR: When I first saw you, I thought, “who is that handsome guy who looks like an actor?” Although you came from France you didn’t, and still don’t, have an attitude. You’re quite Zen, and shy, in my view the typical Norwegian: candid, naif, pure. But you were so passionate, a volcano of ideas that it was obvious from the beginning that you wouldn’t stay in a team for long.

PD: We live in different cities and have intense work schedules now, but we are still very close: I’ve become your official walker.

ADR: Yes, you are my official walker. You like to party and I like to be accompanied by a handsome gentleman. This kind of friendship is long-lasting, like the ones with best friends from primary school.

PD: I like to think of you as my good fairy because you’re honest, enthusiastic and supportive. Plus, you personalise every outfit you wear and aren’t afraid to dare.

. . .

Personal style

ADR: I like to consider myself the guardian of fashion. When I moved house 10 years ago, I had 4,000 pairs of shoes. I had to buy a bigger home to store all the clothes because I need closets, not kitchens, and many are now in my house in Bari [in the southern Puglia region]. I’m super tidy so every item is catalogued, stored in garment bags with tissue paper, perfumed and on hangers that are all the same. But I’m not a vintage fan – I don’t like the smell of old clothes. I’m also not a fan of bags, because anything that is practical isn’t handsome; if anything I like clutches. Pyjamas and tracksuits are sloppy so I only wear Abercrombie & Fitch tracksuits to go to my yoga class. If you dress comfortably, you don’t get the look.

PD: My father was a widower and he had no idea of how to dress me and my sister because he was fine just wearing an anorak. He would haphazardly customise old clothes, so I started making clothes for my little sister and he brought me a sewing machine. When I finished my studies, I decided that I wanted to do something useful that I also enjoyed.

ADR: Even as a teenager I loathed jeans and hoodies so I would ransack my mother’s closet, and the closets of my mother’s friends. On Sunday morning, they would open their closets to find they were missing a blouse or had a mismatched suit, and they would groan, “Oh, that’s Anna”. When I could, I would force my mum to buy designer clothes from Callaghan, Complice, Missoni and Versace so I could wear them on my Saturday night outings. They were too tight for her and too big for me, so I nipped them with belts or pinned them.

PD: I spent lots of time in France, but I like the spontaneity and sense of colour of Italians. They are more daring and instinctive. In Florence I work 12 to 14 hours a day. I appreciate the result-oriented attitude of the people and artisans I work with, the desire to make things happen.

ADR: It’s a kind of more elevated and evolved ready-to-wear, where creativity stretches out towards haute couture. In part, I think it’s a reaction to an increasingly high level but affordable mass market. Today ready-to-wear offers real one-of-a-kind pieces, infused with top artisanal workmanship, details and fashion codes that are totally glamorous and very evening wear. The past 10 years were very hedonistic for fashion, what with young jet-setters back on the fashion scene.

. . .

Jet-set glamour

PD: Young jet-setters are great because they give the idea of lifestyle a more authentic glamour and aspirational connotation: the way they live, their attitude, their look. Fashion is also going through a generational change that is very exciting, because I want Pucci to be part of it.

ADR: I’ll never forget when I saw Bianca Brandolini d’Adda at Valentino’s 45th anniversary party in Rome wearing a long white column. It was one of her first outings with Lapo Elkann and she looked amazing, like a new Marisa Berenson. High glam means less day wear and more unique pieces on the runways. Phoebe Philo for Céline is perhaps the first designer living today to have veered towards pure day wear again.

PD: It challenges me to give the consumer something that has an even higher value in terms of design, quality and excellence.

ADR: Historical and social crises normally bring change and that’s good. But you’re right, we must work harder. I love opulence, gold, richness. I will always say that I was born in Versailles and will die at the Hermitage. When I visited St Petersburg, I really felt at home like a czarina, attracted to the gold gilded columns that are everywhere. My father often compares me to Anastasia or to Tutankhamen. I love to surround myself with beautiful things.

PD: Yes, but don’t forget: it’s normal for us; we’re visual people after all. We believe in our dream and want to share it. For me, colour is like great food. I get a thrill when I find the right shade of pink or orange, it’s like eating dessert.

ADR: Fashion is a muse just like theatre, art, music, literature; it’s a mirror, a sign of the times. It’s timeless, like music – even during the war, you couldn’t stop people from singing. You can view it as a discipline, as frivolous, as costume, but it will never end.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

LIFE AND ARTS ON TWITTER

More FT Twitter accounts
SHARE THIS QUOTE