MILAN (AP) — There is no city in the world like Milan, designer Fausto Puglisi says.
Puglisi, 37, is one of six young designers showing for the first time in Milan, part of efforts by the Italian fashion system to energize its "moda Milanese" with new blood.
Not that Puglisi is new to the fashion world. At 18, he left Sicily to seek his fortune in the United States and soon became a darling with the Hollywood crowd. Earlier this year he became creative director for the Parisian house Ungaro, and his own label styles can be found in fashion boutiques in Europe and around the world.
"I owe everything to the Americans," he said, citing designers Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta as his role models, speaking before his show Sunday in the frescoed halls of a famous Milan palazzo.
But his long stay abroad hasn't dampened his Italian loyalty — his dark eyes shine with enthusiasm as he speaks of his Sicilian roots.
"I am 100 percent Italian," he says, calling the late Gianni Versace "his guiding fashion light."
He also wants to thank the designing duo Dolce&Gabbana, for giving him a boost several seasons ago by displaying his styles in the 'new talent' department of one of their Milan boutiques.
The mixing together of Italian and American influences has defined the Puglisi style, which could be characterized as "edgy couture."
"I want to go beyond contemporary. Go back to the past to be in the future. Street fashion. Go to excess. Find new ways to excite. Even a T-shirt can become an object of desire," he said.
Puglisi also gave a big shout out to Anna Wintour, artistic director of Vogue America, who he says has a big hand in promoting young Italian talent in the hopes of keeping Milan's place on the international fashion map secure following several seasons of malaise. As part of efforts to revitalize the Italian fashion scene, Conde Nast, Vogue's publisher, has awarded university scholarships to five young designers, artists and journalists.
"We needed the Americans to tell us to wake up," Puglisi said.
For spring-summer 2014, Puglisi paired lady-like long skirts printed with California palm trees with masculine shirts, cinched at the waist by a wide leather belt. The shirt is often left open to reveal a black leather studded bra. The outfit could be captioned, "Grace Kelly checks out the dark side of the street."
The palm tree motif defines his collection throughout, showing up as dainty embroidery on a silk dress, or as bold sequins on a leather biker jacket. The importance of the belt in the Puglisi collection was epitomized in skirts and jackets made entirely out of buckles and belts.
Pleats and ruffles, slits and crinolines, blacks and bright summer shades — everything in the show had an opposite, as befitted its "not always a lady" theme.
As exhausted as he was moved by the enthusiastic applause, Puglisi walked slowly down the runway for his curtain call, stopping to throw a kiss to front row guest Wintour and whisper a timid "Thank you."