After 10 years in the creative director chair at Emanuel Ungaro, Emilio Pucci, and Roberto Cavalli, Peter Dundas is launching his eponymous label with a collection for Moda Operandi at the Paris haute couture shows. But he isn’t going solo. As Yves Saint Laurent had Pierre Bergé and Valentino had Giancarlo Giammetti, Dundas has Evangelo Bousis, his partner in life turned partner in business. You’ve seen them on the red carpet together with Kim and Kanye, EmRata, and model pals like Natasha Poly. Dundas has designed the line he’s presenting on Sunday with those glamorous types in mind. “It’s quite a few dresses, he says, “that’s what my girls want.”
But if the cut-up-to-there, with a train out-to-there silhouette of the gown pictured here is pure Dundas, the way he’s gone about producing this collection—with his hands in every aspect of development, and stacking up more air miles than he knows what to do with—is something new. “I’ve worked at relaunching three established brands now and I’ve enjoyed doing that, but at this moment, doing something completely new seems fresher to me, and in many ways seems easier,” he says. “I’m learning a lot.”
We’ll learn what the Dundas collection looks like on Sunday evening. Here, he talked about the pros and cons of starting over (it’s mostly pros) and the Beyoncé Grammys dress that got the ball rolling.
I saw on Instagram you were in Mumbai a few days ago. For embroideries?
Yes, I’ve been every place and seen every person connected with this project. I haven’t been to India for work ever, though I’ve been for holidays. It was great to connect with the handcrafters. I really want to take the opportunity this first time around to see how things are done, to connect with people, and to make sure they understand what I want, and I understand their process, too. And I’m learning, as well. I don’t usually go to shoe factories, and this time I’ve been several times. I want to make sure the shoes are right, and I want the suppliers to know who I am.
So, what do you want? This is the first time you’re designing under your own name.
I’ve been trying to be intuitive and follow my instincts. That’s probably the biggest way that this feels different: because I’m trying to do something that follows my language 100 percent. The beginning for me was Beyoncé [Dundas designed her Grammys performance dress], that was the first drop. This is an organic continuation of what we started, having drops every few months [he also designed Emily Ratajkowski’s Cannes gown]. This Moda Operandi capsule is part of the whole. Afterward, I’m doing something else with Farfetch. So little by little, we’re gathering layers.
Is the Beyoncé dress a good indicator of the sensibility of Dundas? Is it evening-focused? Because you’re also a great tailor, so I’m wondering what the mix will be.
This is an image moment, so yes, it’s going to be things my girls will be really into: for sure some special occasion things that make you feel like you’re the only girl in the room, but also tailoring. This process has been about connecting with my girls. We’re starting on Moda. A lot of my girlfriends shop there, and Lauren [Santo Domingo, Moda’s founder] is a friend of our as well. We’re starting with that, but I want to reach other places as well. I’ve had amazing support from department stores and multi-brand stores; that will be the next step.
I like that image, feeling like you’re the only girl in the room. Can you elaborate on the Dundas aesthetic?
There’s definitely a sensuality to it, a joy of life. Hopefully there’s an element of glamour, an element of freedom, of rebelliousness. Confidence. A little of a bohemian hippie girl. I like to make women feel seductive. That’s why I love cut and embellishments that make you shine.
How has it been getting a company off the ground on your own? Have you enjoyed it? Has it been challenging?
I’ve enjoyed it very much. But I’m not doing it alone, I’m doing it with my partner, Evangelo. We started talking about it because a friend proposed investing in it. We thought, maybe down the line. Then he moved to Milan to be with me when I took the Cavalli job, and we realized we complement each other very well, not just personally, but also professionally. This time around, it was essential to me to do it with somebody who has my back, and whose back I have as well. Of course, it’s been challenging, but we’ve also had a lot of fun with it. It requires a lot of work to turn an established company and make it a modern one. In a way, having a blank sheet but having the experience I’ve been lucky enough to have so far in my career is a nice combination. Today, there’s so many established companies that are struggling to adapt to the times in terms of agility and versatility that I really don’t think a new company is at more of a disadvantage than an established company.
It’s so refreshing to see a living designer’s name on a label!
I agree. My brother-in-law has a tech company in America, and he and his friends have been really inspiring to us. You have so many companies who are thinking outside of the box and creating successes, and it just feels like fashion is lagging behind, even at the basic level in terms of launching new brands. Up until now there’s been a fear of that. [At an established brand] when you want to change deliveries and seasons . . . first of all, even convincing people to do it is very challenging. And the possible economic implications scare people as well, whereas with this we can basically set the clock ourselves. And move step by step so we can grow organically.
What comes next?
I want to see how this goes. Right now it’s been nice to own everything that we do. It’s something I was missing from what I was doing before. So, you understand every cost, every investment on a project. It teaches you a lot, and I probably should have done it years ago. We want to own the project, so therefore, we’re taking our time.
You seem quite e-commerce focused? Why is that?
It’s definitely part of the strategy. We’ll have an online store way before we have a bricks-and-mortar store. With people’s busy lives, e-commerce is only going to get more important. Pop up stores, that I do like. That is something that we are working on. All this technology that’s part of the modern approach, for me, the main objective of all of it is to make a closer relationship with me and this girl. That’s why I want to do this. I want to make sure that she hears my language. That the message reaches home. I learned years ago that it was important to spend time with my girls, understand the life they lead, and why they’re into certain things or not into them anymore. We would like to consider ourselves a lifestyle brand as much as a fashion brand, and part of the way to do that is to live that dream, to share that dream, as well.