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From the Super Bowl with Shakira, to the Met Gala with Ciara, Dundas brings the ‘home girl’ vibe to life after lockdown
Denisa Palsha24. 5. 2020
Peter Dundas is a common denominator and creative force behind fashion powerhouses J.P. Gaultier, Ungaro, Lacroix, Pucci, Cavalli and now - Dundas World. Known as the king of the red carpet – which is no surprise, considering Beyoncé was “front and center” of his label’s launch, one can find an enviable crew of stars in his fan club. During quarantine I virtually chatted with Peter and a his life partner and co-founder of Dundas World, Evangelo Bousis, about their new ACTIVE wear line, re-invented ‘home-girl’ vibe, and what the “new normal” in fashion will entail.
How has quarantine been for you? Where have you been spending your time?
EB: When our offices in London started to shut down, we moved to Chicago to stay with family. For a couple months, we have been in the same house with parents and siblings, doing parallel ZOOM calls in different rooms, taking turns in the home gym and getting together for family meals. It has been quite inspiring to have morning walks with my mom, our biggest fan, and watch what she wears during the day. We have been spending a lot more time engaging on social media, with our audience. Pandemic taught us that it was time to go back to basics: values, realness, compassion, positivity, the power of reconnecting with people.
How has the time in isolation impacted your work?
PD: We are positive people and have always thought about challenges in a constructive way. Necessity is the mother of invention. We took this time to be a learning experience and made the most out of it. Quite honestly, there was a need to learn some remote working practices because we can’t always travel everywhere. Too, Fashion was moving so fast. I created 12 collections in the last 2 years and never seemed to find the time to slow down, to think. Quarantine was an opportunity to ask ourselves how people will want to dress in new circumstances. What colors and fabrics they will want to wear, what kind of clothes will be relevant moving forward.
Has a virtual work environment affected your creativity?
EB: Working from home is a new reality, and we made it work. We have been very busy. Since we are customer centric, we always think about what our girl needs now. During the pandemic, we designed a line of facemasks and launched our new active wear line, ACTIVE. It has fun prints and cuts, and pieces are chic and make you feel fantastic 24/7! We used antibacterial treated fabrics that permit washing at low temperatures, which reduces micro plastic emissions. Responsibility for our environment, by limiting waste and recycling material, is important to us. Finally, since the digital world is taking over, we reinvented our website, which launched on May 1, as a site for our new virtual ‘experience.’
And you kicked off a fashion illustration contest during lock down, to help students!
PD: I wanted to create a new platform for young illustrators to support graduating students who may struggle to get a job due to the pandemic. This allowed them to showcase their talent. Fashion illustrations have been at the core of my formation as a designer, and the contest is a continuum of my work promoting this artform (such as our exhibit of iconic fashion illustrations during Art Basel, etc.). As you could imagine, we have been receiving an overwhelming response from applicants.
Peter, you have a curriculum many designers could only dream about! From Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Lacroix, Jean-Paul Gaultier, to Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli: how was your work as a designer for these fashion powerhouses, and what did you bring to Dundas World?
PD: Every experience added a layer to me. I grew up looking at images of their work in fashion magazines. It became a dream come true!! Jean Paul Gaultier, who is one of the most talented designers that has ever lived, was my basic alphabet. Lacroix was about playing with couture, Cavalli was about having fun with fashion, and Ungaro was a French couture house with its traditions. Finally, Pucci is one of the most accomplished lifestyle brands, symbolizing a whole era in fashion history; it made me appreciate prints in a completely different way. I am extremely fortunate that I worked with brands with a compatible design language to my own and for my ‘schooling’ with all of them. I try to reflect that with high respect in everything that we do today in Dundas World.
Your collections are timeless, and that’s the name of the game for the new customer mentality post-pandemic. What will the Dundas World girl look like when we get back?
PD: We are a lifestyle brand. Since the beginning, we were set to be seasonless, we didn’t date collections, and we had a strong online focus. This is now relevant in fashion more than ever. Our values have been positivity, joy, creativity and craftsmenship because they make you feel better. Maybe today this won’t be expressed through a red carpet dress. It won’t be about a vibe for a girl after sunset; rather a vibe of the girl that stays home a lot. But we are not changing who we are - just shifting focus, and our girl will keep the same core values.
Wherever you are, one always finds celebrities around. Who embodies Dundas World in the most significant way, and why?
EB: Starting with Beyoncé, who was close to our brand since its launch, celebrities we work with represent our core values. They are not just pretty faces or accomplished artists. They are exceptional, real women and mothers. When we met Beyoncé, who was probably the strongest woman figure of our generation, she said ‘I followed you your whole career, so I want to be the first one to wear you!’ Shakira, Kim Kardashian, Ciara, Natasha Polly, Alessandra Ambrosio, etc. - all the girls we work with are smart and hardworking, with many layers to them. That’s important to us.
PD: And we have the same appreciation for things, so we established personal friendships. Kim Kardashian is one of the most professional women I know, who also works on projects with honorable causes, like the release of wrongfully convicted prisoners. While juggling her career and motherhood, she finds the time to send us text messages about personal news, like her family planning. Ciara, who we worked with on the Met GALA live feature on May 4th, is another hard-working professional, who is also a real woman, wife, and mother of two! I don’t think people always realize that.
Your Super Bowl 2020 costumes for Shakira’s show with J.Lo will go down as one of the most memorable fashion moments in history! I cannot imagine the pressure of designing the pieces! How was it?
EB: It was fun and last minute. When I got the call (in mid-December) to see if we would be interested, Peter said, ‘Do you know how much work I have?’ And I said, ‘But it’s the super bowl!’
PD: I obviously underestimated the effect that it would have (laugh). This was a ‘super’ experience for us. More people saw my work in one night than in years before. We only met with Shakira on January 7, and I was sending my assistant to India, Italy, all over to source material. There were many technical requirements to follow. Plus, our team was four people, while on the other camps, there were thirty! I was personally sewing so much, as I have not on any collection before! But I had great fun! Shakira is a delightful person. We ended up making a new friend.
There is a lot of talk about the new format for fashion shows. Will you (and should the industry) continue doing shows?
EB: I think there will be shows, but different. We already started to create a new virtual experience last season during the Paris D9 show in July, when we projected a backstage live stream on the frontstage screens, connecting the audience simultaneously.
PD: I thought at first, who would want to see me running around backstage? On the contrary, our audience loved to be let into the brand in this unique way. We should make shows more special, with a different facet to the traditional format, and maybe not so often, in the new era.
With e-commerce taking on a more prominent role, can we get your pieces in more countries?
EB: Yes, we ship all around the world! We never stopped, even during the pandemic. The shift today is towards a digital experience. Your website is now your fashion show, PR company, a flagship store and platform of connectivity. Through our new site we connect in a way we would do in the store. We answer questions or give advice, so our girl is informed when she chooses pieces. It’s all about creating the best customer experience, especially with limitations to shop in the stores. You can buy our pieces from anywhere you live. Being accessible to customers all over the world is our priority. This is why we call ourselves Dundas ‘World’!