If there’s anyone in possession of the animal instinct and jet-setting panache to whip Roberto Cavalli into a full-service ready-to-wear brand, it’s Peter Dundas, the former Emilio Pucci artistic director who worked as Cavalli’s chief designer from 2002 to 2005. ‘Returning to Cavalli was a real homecoming for me: amazing, wonderful and weird all combined together,’ says Dundas, whose spring debut introduced daywear into the Cavalli conversation – one usually dominated by animal prints, lustrous embroideries and killer gowns. ‘In a way [it is] an advantage, but also a disadvantage as I feel a fresh take is in order,’ he adds. 

And a fresh take will be demanded. The brand was acquired by private-equity firm Clessidra SGR shortly after Dundas’ appointment, followed by the installation of former Bulgari CEO Francesco Trapani as chairman. Trapani has since made no secret of his plans to diversify Cavalli’s eveningwear base and bolster its accessories business. ‘For the first collection I wanted to address a younger girl,’ says Dundas of the spring collection’s street edge. ‘I also returned to the house’s love of denim, and wash and dye treatments, even in the tailoring. These are ingredients that are also important looking forward.’ 

This season, the Norwegian-born designer proved that a leopard can change its spots, unleashing a golden lion’s head motif on spring’s tuxedo dressing: ‘Whether it is animal or floral, they are part of our house DNA but they need to evolve,’ he says of the maison’s affiliation with nature. ‘Luckily, they are fun elements to play with, and I like to play!’

Taking inspiration from the 1980s, Dundas did just that with the collection’s cascading ruffles and dip-dye effects. ‘I think the main common points between the house and I are glamour, sensuality and exuberance,’ he says. ‘I like making people feel happy with my designs.’ And here he has plenty of room to experiment, given that he’s also overseeing the house’s diffusion lines, menswear and childrenswear, as well as the Cavalli homeware range. ‘Freedom is certainly part of the Cavalli life philosophy,’ he says.

As originally featured in the March 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*204)

RELATED TOPICS: ROBERTO CAVALLI, HEAD TO HEAD