Carte blanche: Fausto
His intensity and confidence radiates through the phone, electrifying my senses with his enchanting, free-spirited energy. The passionate voice that reverberates from Milan is immediately contagious, and as the conversation unfolds, it is impossible to resist the buoyancy of his character topped with immeasurable cultural depth. From vividly describing his youth in Southern Italy to dressing some of the world’s most iconic women, Fausto Puglisi is as punchy and luxuriously eclectic as his designs. As a longtime admirer of his work, my voice trembles with excitement and my cheeks flush with nerves as one of my most revered independent designers takes me on a journey through emotion, culture, creativity, and, of course, fashion.
By Brenna Dixon
Starting at the beginning, we travel back in time to Messina, Italy during the 1980s. Growing up in a small town, he explains the importance of dressing up as being a “part of respecting the people you meet,” for not only his town, but for a tradition heavily instilled in Italian culture. As a young boy, he describes seeing his impeccably dressed grandparents, stating that “they were always perfect.” His keen observations foreshadowed his creative future. The ‘80s were a historical moment when Italian designers were in the spotlight: think Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferré, and Missioni, who Puglisi reveres as the “real rockstars.” Versace, in particular, Puglisi describes as a “real superstar” and an “absolute icon,” and was such an iconic designer and a direct source of inspiration for Fausto. Born in a country where fashion and beauty is culturally ingrained at birth, combined with that particular moment in time, he reveals it was as a child that he began to dream and “never had any doubt” since about becoming a fashion designer. Exuding confidence and determination, the young Puglisi was already informing his parents and friends of his future success: “I will be big – I will be a fashion designer,” he would announce. In hindsight, he describes his childhood realization of wanting to become a designer as being a “beautiful moment as a kid and as a dreamer.” Immersed and cultivated in a generation of such rich fashion inspiration, he emphasizes that his core values of family and loyalty are still as deeply instilled and equally important today as those of beauty and creation, which fed and continue to fuel his dreams.
“..WHEN YOU believe IN A MESSAGE, AND WHEN YOUR message IS CLEAR, IT’S NORMAL THAT talented ARTISTS REACH OUT TO YOU TO CONNECT.“
Fast forward through the upbeat ‘80s to around 1999, when Fausto decided to depart from his beloved country for America. As a “dreamer,” he confesses sketching clothing during school, designing his own shop, and constantly thinking about the creation of his own brand. As a naturally curious soul with eyes set on the horizon, Fausto followed his dream of “becoming big.” His decision to move to America was partly because he felt that it was “the place to be,” and that it was ultimately connected to not only fashion, but also pop culture. He finished school and was off, landing first in New York, then shifting south to Texas and eventually ending up in Los Angeles. Being intrigued with multiculturalism and infatuated with places that offered “opposition and contrast,” he felt that America being the birthplace of “rock n’ roll and pop culture” honoured his vision. Now living the lifestyle he always wanted, he felt that this newfound home immediately shaped his dreams. “It was fantastic; it was really amazing,” he recalls so intensely. While living in New York and working as a waiter in Tribeca, he recalls approaching infamous stylist Patti Wilson. Recognizing Wilson from her stellar style career, he asked to show her his collection. “I had only 15 pieces that were made in Sicily,” he divulges. Puglisi had brought those 15 intricately crafted garments in his suitcase all the way from Italy. Upon review, Patti Wilson immediately proposed Puglisi to dress Whitney Huston at the Grammy Awards. America was a groundbreaking experience for the budding designer, who, following his first Grammy’s, was picked up by Designer Boutique Forty Five Ten in Dallas and influential shop Maxfield in LA, which was followed by a plethora of stylists and celebrities.
After his success abroad, Fausto had every intention of remaining on American soil. While vacationing in Sicily, with a house rented and return ticket in hand, he received a call from Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabanna. The powerhouse behind Docle & Gabanna wanted him to stay in Italy and take part in their retail project Spiga 2, featuring young upcoming designers. Puglisi stayed and created a stunning collection for the shop, selling out in only two days. He remembers such “an incredible energy” of the whirlwind experience. The collection was about colour-blocking and exquisite embroidery during a time in fashion he illustrates as being all about “pale romantic black, white, and grey hues.” Diverging from the trends of the time, Fausto’s saturated contrasts were innovative and energetically refreshing.
While displaying at Spiga 2, his designs caught the eye of style icon Anna Dello Russo who immediately exclaimed she “was in heaven” and that she “always wanted to wear Fausto.” Dello Russo did end up wearing Puglisi’s creations while frequenting fashion weeks, and, as one of the most photographed women on the fashion scene, it was of no surprise that she exposed Puglisi to the world. Due to the exposure via Dello Russo, Vogue Runway director Nicole Phelps contacted Puglisi about whether he would be presenting a collection in Milan, and so he did. After presenting his first shows, Puglisi’s team was solidified and he began to develop complete seasonal collections of his fashion brand, Fausto Puglisi.
From Whitney Huston to Dello Russo, Fausto’s designs have caught the eye of women around the world. His ability to tap into a female’s fierce yet modern sexiness has drawn stars like Jennifer Lopez, Kendall Jenner, Madonna, and Niki Minaj, to name just a few. As a true artist, Puglisi feels that his immense passion and his desire to communicate through creation is personified through his garments. “When you are strong, when you believe in a message, and when your message is clear, it’s normal that talented artists reach out to you to connect,” he describes of the boundless celebrities that have donned his name. Upholding his approach to fashion as an “art form and true expression,” he explains that to be a truly unique designer today, one has to “design each piece like an object as if creating a piece of furniture.” His philosophy maintains that “an object can become desirable,” and so his designs have for so many infamous women. His collections are fused with rich cultural influences and the unique blend of past and present references, drawing inspiration from “art, Sicily, and Ancient Roman/Greek culture.” Fausto’s adoration of ancient Roman and Greek culture stems beyond textbook definition. The two world’s philosophical approach and expression pertaining to external and internal beauty he describes as both being “suggestive, profound, and yet so superficial,” which Puglisi finds so stimulating. Feeling deeply connected to the past civilizations, he is constantly inspired by what gives him “emotion,” from “clothing to listening to music.” Driven by sentiment, he delivers an impactful message, which is naturally geared towards strong, independent, and confident women – those who don’t shy away from expression. “A strong personality is the most important – women are free to be whomever they want,” he affirms. He adds an insightful and inspiring note that “the only people who want to judge a woman are a misogynistic society, stupid men, repressed men, or her evil friends.” He’s a deep believer of female confidence and allowing liberty for women to express themselves freely in society. His devotion and support for female individuality, mind, body, and character are, first and foremost for Puglisi, a mindset and a connection that translates seamlessly into his astonishing work.
With a life dedicated to constant creation, Puglisi confesses that he is “never not creating,” and believes that there is one thing he could not live without and something that he is truly connected to: emotion. In association with fashion, emotions are the driving force of our being; they are “connected to music, dreams, nightmares, and desires.” He adds that he wants to be able to “feel, create, and stimulate that sensitivity in others.” Feelings are a detrimental human component and essentially our essence of being, something that he could not imagine life without. Being constantly immersed in the formulation of new ideas, stimulation, and feeling, I asked Fausto what advice he would give to his younger self. He told us, “Fashion isn’t just about parties and celebrities. It’s about working hard day and night. It’s about keeping your ideas focused on your goal. You have to be a gladiator. Everyone is ready to judge, kill, and destroy you. You can never give up.” From a childhood dream, to dressing Madonna, Fausto Puglisi is an entrepreneur, visionary, creative mind, and, above all, fashion designer, who did what he set out to do as a child in Messina: he “made it big.”