Peter Dundas is fashion’s golden boy. He’s charming, lighthearted, and has an infectious enthusiasm for his craft. He’s also really talented, owning artful excess from start to finish. With a career spanning two decades and a number of accolades, Dundas is indeed an industry vet. But the past two years have been a series of firsts for the designer: first brand, first store, and the first look that launched it all: A pregnant Beyoncé in a gold-encrusted, crystal-embellished OTT number straight out of a Gustav Klimt painting.
Born in Oslo, Dundas moved to America when he was 14, finishing his teenage years with a degree from Parsons in New York City. An apprenticeship with Jean Paul Gaultier, then a quick stint at Christian Lacroix, and his momentum became unstoppable. Fourteen years and three luxury fashion houses—Cavalli, Ungaro, Pucci, Cavalli (in that order)—later, Dundas brought his superstar quality, burning quick and hot and straight to the top. It was during his second tenure as creative director at Cavalli, from 2015 to 2016, that he garnered true celebrity attention: Bella, Naomi, Kendall, Kim (at the Met Gala, no less), the list goes on. Tasked with breathing life into old institutions, Dundas’ girls became younger and brighter. They stayed out later, feared less, and enjoyed more. Lifestyle was his trademark before it became everyone else’s.
Three years later and Dundas is not slowing down—not anytime soon. And neither is Dundas World, his two-year-old eponymous fashion line and the microcosm of excess, indulgence and just plain fun that’s been created in the brand’s wake—the wake of a superfast, super luxe, superyacht, that is.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Dundas says over the phone from London, where he’s preparing for the launch for his next pop-up at Selfridges. “[It] was a natural progression from what I was doing and where I was in my career—even in myself as well. It was something that felt it was waiting to be done.”
Worn by his nearest and dearest (think: Poppy Delevingne, Eugenie Niarchos, Bianca Brandolini, and Emily Ratajkowski, for a few) the pieces are everything you’d expect from Dundas’ repertoire, and more. Rich hues, exotic prints, embellishments, embroidery, and glam, glam, GLAM!!! I ask if he ever thinks about toning down the maximalism; does he ever feel peer pressure? “[Design] is a very natural process, you know,” he says. “I don’t feel like holding back because of other people’s collections, or anything like that. I’m aware of what other designers do, but I’d like to think there’s room for everybody on this fashion planet.”
Plunging necklines—and the celebrity decolletage that wears them—aside, the business part of things, run by his partner Evangelo Bousis, is quite different. The traditional runway calendar has been chucked for seasonal drops that mirror the on-the-go needs of his jetset clientele, while international pop-ups take the place of a brick-and-mortar flagship. “We try to lead by truth, and how we live our life [is] really a reflection of the brand as a whole,” says Bousis. Though modern in comparison to what everyone else is doing, the Dundas style of doing things is actually quite retro.
In a way, his old school tactics might just beat out some of fashion’s most tech-forward. Why? Because Dundas is able to give his globetrotting girls exactly what they want—the what being slinky and shiny micro minis, velvety soft, Rockabilly-inspired suiting, and the most glam gowns. The mutual benefits of tailoring each ‘drop,’ as he calls his off-calendar collections, to the lifestyles of the women who surround him are that Dundas truly knows his customer. It’s an intimate rapport that few designers have perfected. Because in this age of capital-F Facetime and virtually boundless accessibility, the most basic human contact is lost.
But it’s no coincidence that Dundas possesses this ability to connect. He’s always had a knack for the sensuous and seductive. His clothing draws out the instinctually animalistic qualities that exist deep down inside all of us—lust, confidence, passion.
“[My clothes] provoke emotion, they provoke desire,” he explains. “They awaken animal instincts. I think that I’m attracted to it because sensuality or attraction is one of the simplest elements in what makes the world go round.” It seems Dundas was always destined to ignite fires—even if those fires were burning low and deep and slow within. “I don’t want women to just feel great; I want [them] to feel their greatness.”
Greatness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It manifests in confidence, joy, and sex appeal. And in an age of Phoebes and Stellas and Hedi’s, Dundas is making the case for sex that is just that: simple and straightforward, yet totally unrestrained. He is celebrating women in all their nuanced ways—from mind to body to spirit—and he really seems to understand the whole package. Because his method is rooted in ignition and empowerment, any case for vulgarity or objectification is left by the wayside.
‘70s-obsessed Dundas cites music as one of his biggest inspirations: “I think I was born in the wrong era,” he says. “[There’s] this easygoing sensuality [of that period] that is so glamorous. I’ve always connected with it. The musicians at the time had this casual daringness that I really liked.” With music came fame, and with fame came those who dressed famous people: the late Yves Saint Laurent and Roy Halston—paradigms for how Dundas would one day live and reminders from a bygone era that fashion can be a little mischievous.
I get the idea that mischief is a quality inherently bound with Dundas. He likes to have a good time, and those who wear his clothes do too. Fun is often a four-letter word in a fashion community rife with overworked, under-enthused designers and creative directors. But here, it’s the sweetener of Dundas’ independence, the sexier side of self-employment. And the luxury of freedom hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Adoring women like morning-glories, a night out in Dundas is like a spiritual awakening. “A lot of our friends tell us at the end of the night, after wearing the clothes, ‘this is the real me,’” laughs Bousis. “I’m always so happy to hear women say what a great time they had when they wear our clothes,” Dundas adds. “And I don’t think that’s contained to age or body type. It’s about people who enjoy their life.”