by ALEXANDER FURY
Fausto Puglisi’s clothes conform to a very precise, very particular notion of “Italian” fashion: heavily decorated, floridly patterned, brightly colored, and, for many, just a little too much. He’s right at home in Florence, with its ornate palazzi and rich backdrops of Renaissance masterpieces.
Incongruously, Puglisi chose to show in a disused train station. Perhaps that’s because he decided to provide the ornament—a phalanx of bodies, male and female, like a Roman frieze, raised on a plinth and dressed in his latest offerings. That is, his Resort collection for her, and his menswear debut for Spring 2017. They sat perfectly together, in the specific world of excess that Puglisi occupies, like a Michelangelo mural via Las Vegas, or those early-’90s multi-model Gianni Versace campaigns shot by Richard Avedon. The women wore the short, razzle-dazzle dresses in multihued florals with jutting skater skirts or layers of embellished pleats that Puglisi has claimed as his own (bar a tussle with that aforementioned Versace legacy). The men all seemed like embodiments of southern Italian machismo—more than a few were bearded, bearing a striking resemblance to Puglisi himself.
It looked slightly incongruous—but somehow not unrealistic. You could immediately and obviously relate Puglisi’s menswear to Versace, but also to the newer looks offered by Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. Both labels do swift business for men—and are in the minority on the rails.
Ask Puglisi why he chose now to show men’s, and he shrugs. “I was talking to Selfridges, or Bergdorf Goodman, or Joyce, or Lane Crawford,” he said, ticking off four of his major stockists over the blasting music that accompanied his Pitti Uomo presentation. “They said, ‘How about doing men’s? Because so many men are buying your oversize women’s pieces.’ ” There’s obviously room for one more unapologetic maximalist, especially in the Italian fashion landscape, though you never imagined Puglisi to be the kind of designer to champion the newly fashionable gender-indifferent wardrobe. Especially as his visions of masculine and feminine—those pumped-up male models in glitzy sportswear versus A-line skirted, high-heeled females—seem as far apart as G.I. Joe and Barbie.
While the kind of men who will shell out big bucks for a bedazzled bit of womenswear are, even today, few and far between, there are guys who will be drawn to Puglisi’s unapologetic adornment. “Men so many times are more free,” reasons the designer. “A woman thinks, ‘Am I chic enough? I’m sexy too much?’ Whereas a man: If you like it, you wear it.” If you like Puglisi, you’ll be wearing bomber jackets encrusted with his signature gilt embroideries of starfish and shells, necklaces dripping with heavy coral, T-shirts stamped with images of Roman gods or Centurion helmets, and gladiator sandals studded with medallions, wrapping high up the leg under shorts printed with hothouse blooms or shredded denims.
It was, it’s fair to say, all almost a little too much. “I don’t mind what is good taste and bad taste,” Puglisi claims. And there’s something to be said about how wholeheartedly and full-throttle Puglisi plunges into styles many would group definitively in the latter. It’s also convincing. In a strange way, it’s easier to see the customer for his menswear than for his women’s, so readily could the looks be pulled apart into single statement items—embellished bomber, embellished short, embellished T-shirt—and combined with other (presumably, less embellished) things. Perhaps that’s because the Puglisi man isn’t quite as trussed-up as his woman. You wouldn’t mind a few of his easier, roomier jackets slipstreaming into his womenswear collections, where looking overtly sexy is less of a fear, more of a guarantee. But maybe the situation will be reversed in those high profile retailers; you could definitely imagine the Puglisi woman dipping into the man’s wardrobe for those bullion-studded bombers.