Q&A: Fausto Puglisi Wants to Be the Frank Sinatra of Fashion

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The palm-print step-and-repeats on Bergdorf Goodman's third floor made it abundantly clear: Fausto Puglisi was in town. The Italian designer, known for his bold prints and '80s-influenced silhouettes, drew Chanel Iman, Shala Monroque, Michelle Harper, and Zendaya to a trunk show in his honor last night. Bergorf Goodman's Linda Fargo, wearing a ruffled leather jacket by the designer, said she first became interested in his designs when she saw them on early supporter Anna dello Russo. "When he first sent us his collection, there was kind of a left brain and a right brain going on. He did all these pieces that were beyond and over-the-top … I mean, beyond. Versace would have been jealous. That’s how good these were." As his brightly attired muses mingled, Puglisi chatted with the Cut about Ol' Blue Eyes and A$AP Rocky.

You use a lot of Americana elements, like the palm trees from spring 2014 and the Statue of Liberty prints from fall. You’re from Sicily, right?
Yes.

So I’m wondering what appeals to you about these Americana motifs.
I mean, I’m a dreamer and I’ve always been a dreamer, and for me the quintessential dream has always been America: American life, American lifestyle, American ideas. So many Sicilians came in the past to America. I am obsessed with Frank Sinatra. He was from Sicily, too, his roots. I want to be the Frank Sinatra of fashion. America influenced me so much, since I was born. I was a kid in the '80s, and Italian television was obsessed with American TV, movies.

Did you watch a lot of Miami Vice?
Miami Vice, A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, Magnum P.I.  It was all so incredible. For me, that represented something iconic. I really wanted to be here, I wanted to come to New York. I was also crazy about Miami and L.A. It’s a state of mind. It’s about that finesse at the same time. It’s about a mix of culture, about change. I am here all the time; I have so many friends here. Even if [one season] I get inspired by something else, it’s here.

When did you first come to New York?
I was 17 years old. I had just finished my [high school] studies. I was too young. I stayed here for three months, but I did not have a visa, so I had to go back to Italy.

So it was a little bit like a gap year, but for three months. What is the Milan fashion scene like? It’s kind of a community in itself?
I like to think about the world. I don’t like to think about just Milan. I think that we are in a global village. I am so proud of my roots; I don’t want to be one of the people that just thinks about Milan or about Paris.

Katy Perry and Lorde have both recently worn your designs, and I know you did some work for Madonna on her MDNA tour. So, who in the music world would you like to dress next?
I’m doing everybody.

Who are you excited about?
A$AP.

A$AP Rocky?
Yeah. I love him.  I love them all. I’m doing the costumes for Katy’s Prism tour. Music is an obsession. It’s what comes naturally.

What would you see A$AP Rocky wearing? Maybe he would wear a palm-tree-print shirt or something.
No. Crystal. Diamonds.

How is it balancing the two lines that you work on?
I feel free. At the end of the day, if you love your job, everything comes out [fine].

It doesn’t feel like twice as much work?
Yes, it’s a lot of work, too much work, but it’s okay.

What has it been like meeting your customers in person at trunk shows like these?
I love women, so I like to understand what the customer wants to wear. They want to be beautiful; they want to be sexy. Now there is a new version of sexiness. It doesn’t mean to show boobs or legs — you can be completely covered — but it’s about freshness. Now sexiness is about freshness. If you are fresh, it’s very sexy and American.

Additional reporting by Erica Schwiegershausen.

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