Designer Fausto Puglisi gets a homecoming party in L.A.

Left, Gwen Stefani and Shirley Manson with designer Fausto Puglisi, creative director of Emanuel Ungaro, at a private dinner in his honor. Right, Dinner hosts Arianne Phillips and B. Akerlund, along with Barneys New York fashion director Tomoko Ogura.
(Donato Sardella / Getty Images )
Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

It was a homecoming party all right.

Pop stars Fergie, Gwen Stefani and Shirley Manson, and a bevy of leggy models including Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio, Angela Lindvall and Liberty Ross, were among guests who came out Thursday night to fete Italian designer Fausto Puglisi, wear his festive Emanuel Ungaro designs and celebrate the special place L.A. has played in his success.

The venue? Bungalow One of the Chateau Marmont, naturally. What else what would you expect from a designer who has the word “Hollywood” tattooed up his right forearm?

Puglisi, whose haute hedonist designs have earned him comparisons to Gianni Versace, launched his namesake collection in Milan in 2006, and in 2012 was named creative director of Emanuel Ungaro in Paris.


Thursday’s dinner was hosted by Barneys New York, stylist/costume designer Arianne Phillips (fresh off her Tony Award nomination for Broadway’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) and stylist B. Akerlund, who have known and nurtured Puglisi since he lived in L.A. in his early 20s, trying to kick-start his career with work assisting David LaChapelle and others.

Together, the two power stylists gave Puglisi some of his biggest opportunities, including making costumes for Madonna and other pop stars.

“Fausto is our secret weapon,” said Phillips, who was introduced to Puglisi when he sent her a fax out of the blue explaining that he’d always dreamed of dressing Madonna.

And dress Madonna he did, starting with some of the Western outfits she wore around the time of the “Don’t Tell Me” album in 2000, and continuing with the “Hard Candy” promo tour in 2008 and beyond.

“He’s the same guy I met seven years ago,” said Akerlund, who tapped Puglisi to make the fierce cheerleader outfits worn by Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. during Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show. “He’s the most passionate person about what he does.”

“This event here really does have a beautiful meaning,” said Puglisi. “I was young and had always dreamt of America. I wanted to be here in L.A., and they were the first to support me.”

Puglisi is obsessed with American pop culture, from L.A. artist Shepard Fairey, whose “Obey” T-shirt he was wearing at the party, to John Belushi and Marilyn Monroe, whom he invoked when discussing the Chateau Marmont.

And Puglilsi’s own star is definitely on the rise. For the 2014 Golden Globes, Rashida Jones wore a gown from his namesake collection, embroidered with golden palm trees, and landed on numerous best-dressed lists. And he seems to be on the way to turning around the fortunes of the troubled house of Ungaro, which has been plagued by a revolving door of designers, most infamously Lindsay Lohan.

The spring Ungaro collection, available now at Barneys, is an exuberant expression of polka dots and ruffles that respect the heyday of the house in the 1970s and ‘80s, while adding a plucky, pop-art edge. At a trunk show at Barneys Beverly Hills on Friday, shoppers were particularly enthusiastic about pencil skirts, knitwear and crystal-encrusted bustier tops.

“Ungaro was very brave,” Puglisi said. “He was one of the first to dare so much, to take so many risks, to mix polka dots with masculine fabrics, butterflies with lace, black leather with chiffon. I respect him so much, and when they asked me to come on, I said of course, it’s so me.”

The clothes are brash, but also very happy. They look at home in L.A., as does Puglisi.

“L.A. is a state of mind,” Puglisi said, revealing that he got his Hollywood tattoo long before he lived here in the early 2000s. “Growing up, people used to talk about Hollywood as being very superficial. But I never thought that. To me, it’s like a Greek tragedy and comedy -- hopes, nightmares, desperation, desire, beauty and ugliness. It’s not just celebrities, it’s part of our story. It’s a dreamland and an inspiration.”