Giles Deacon Talks Taking The Reins At Ungaro
Toss the name Emanuel Ungaro into a fashion conversation of late and there’s no chance it’s Emanuel himself who’ll come to mind. The house that the Balenciaga-trained couturier built has had a spiraling stream of tenants, culminating in the chaos and confusion of LiLo’s mercifully brief occupancy. The debacle-riddled label’s appointment of Giles Deacon as creative director is a creative attempt to claw back credibility. At the very least, Deacon’s affable imperturbability offers a reassuring antidote to the immediate past. And—more to the point—there’s an innate logic to the new hire. Deacon has yet to meet Ungaro himself, but his knowledge, enthusiasm, and respect surely suggest the encounter, should it come, would be more simpatico than cocktails with La Lohan.
Wow! Giles loves a challenge.
I thought of all of that, but you’ve just got to see beyond it. It’s such an easy thing for the more salacious writers to get bogged down in, but the legacy of the house is so immense that the last two years have been a week in its lifetime. Anyone with a good fashion knowledge and a sense of history will know what there is to work with. There’s the most amazing archive from 1967 onwards, a huge couture archive from 1970 until Mr. Ungaro finished in 2003, so much to get yourself involved in.
Has the house always been on your radar?
When I was doing my foundation course, before I ever got to Saint Martins, I was a really big fan of Ungaro. The Ratti prints were immediately appealing to my magpie eye. I thought there was always a lot more to Ungaro than the eighties thing with the ruching and the florals, and what I want to do is assimilate all that and make a new version, capturing the spirit and using what little intelligence I have to give it my twist.
And what is that spirit?
Put simply, it’s the vivacious Frenchness that really interests me. They’re very lively clothes in their construction. They look like clothes you can have a good time in, which I’m really attracted to.
Do you detect an Ungaro element in contemporary fashion?
I think there were certain elements in Tom’s first Saint Laurent collections. And Carine Roitfeld has a very Ungaro feel about the way she dresses: the tailored jacket, the pencil skirt. It’s kind of tarty with intelligence. I see them as really empowering clothes, and lots of women like playing with the psychology of all that. It’s an interesting game.
How compatible do you consider your own work to be?
In the use of color and print, and the essential playfulness. But I’m very conscious that I don’t want any blurring. My own line is more subversive. In Ungaro-land, things are a little more obvious. I like the instantness of those clothes, but the world of challenge for me is getting that other kind of lightness and softness. My own things tend to be a little bit harder.
And never forget your natural tendency toward the macabre…
I’ll keep that with me. [Hearty laughter.]
The house of Ungaro was an haute couture stalwart. I imagine the recent past has been brutal to the legacy.
The atelier still exists. There are eight ladies who’ve been working there on private client pieces and wedding dresses. I’m very keen to start that again. To work with those ladies within an atelier setting would be an absolute privilege for me. I’ve got the loose idea of getting a small presentation together for January…The rest of the Ungaro team is amazing, too. The print developer, the fabric technician, they’ve all been there quite some time, and they’re super-ready to get involved and put the past couple of years to one side.
What’s this going to do for your work load?
We’ll have to be organized with military precision. My diary is done about 14 months in advance, anyway, which is fantastic but terrifying at times. Besides, every three days, I’m somewhere else anyway. But I can do door-to-door from my studio in London to Ungaro on Avenue Montaigne in three hours.