In June 1989, the Pixies took the stage at Glastonbury Festival. Tomorrow, they’ll do it again, and it seems only fitting. The first time the Massachusetts foursome turned up at Worthy Farm, it was on the heels of Doolittle, a record that cemented them as one of the most indisputably zeitgeist-shaking bands of their generation. Then in April, after two decades of will-they-or-won’t-they murmurings, the Pixies (less founding member Kim Deal) released Indie Cindy, their first full-length album of new material since 1991′s Trompe Le Monde.
On the eve of their Glastonbury reprise twenty-five years later, Style.com sat down with front man and prolific solo artist Black Francis to talk about the highs and lows of the festival circuit, his current playlist, and why the Pixies never break the tension.
What is doing the festival circuit like for you guys? Is it fun or is it draining?
I think other people enjoy the festival circuit more than I do. It isn’t that I’m not appreciative of the audience or of the gig or of the fee that I’m paid at the end of the night. I’m appreciative of all that. But I’m just not a big believer in the festival the way that other people seem to be, and have been ever since I played my first festival twenty-eight years ago or whatever. People, especially over in Europe, they’ve been going to the same field every summer for however many decades. It’s this whole kind of ritualistic tribal thing that they do and they love it. But in terms of the rock music, I would say that I guess as it has evolved over the years, it’s gotten very commercialized or whatever. There are a lot of sponsors involved. There’s a lot of advertising. There are a lot of stages. There are a lot of bands. It’s this whole kind of like…faux-ethos vibe that is like, Oh, yes, the festival is the ultimate expression of human gathering. That kind of a mentality has taken over in a way. I think everybody likes the idea that there are a lot of bands there and there are a lot of people there and there’s a lot of stuff going on. But I just think it’s too much.
We’re coming from the Northeast, and basically we’re all fairly shy. Standing up in front of a bunch of people, especially nowadays, because people are conditioned to want to hear the call-and-response. HEY – OH – HEY – OH. They’re conditioned to people to say, “What’s up, motherfucker?!” They want to hear that. One thing I enjoy the most about festivals is there’s this kind of awkward tension when we’re onstage because—I would say 40 to 50 percent of the audience are just kind of waiting, wondering when we’re going to kick the big beach ball off into the crowd. And they don’t know what to do until we break that tension, and we never break the tension. We just go along and play our songs. I think everyone’s kind of happy when we say good night and we take our bow. We wave. We’re not fake. We take in the applause and say, “We love you, too.” So I think everyone knows in the end, Oh! They were in a good mood! I just can’t understand the modern-rock mentality. It’s like, has anyone ever listened to a fucking goddamn Lou Reed record? What the fuck have they been listening to and watching? “They seem like they were catty, in a bad mood tonight. They didn’t say anything to the audience!” Like, what the fuck planet are you on? Have you listened to any cool rock band ever? Have you ever heard of Miles fucking Davis? What the fuck? Anyway. It’s just feeling a little too Spring Break for me. I’m very happy to be there, but I just don’t know that I’m exactly on the wavelength. Sometimes you just gotta go, “Hey, I accepted the tour, I accepted the gig. I don’t need to understand it. I just need to walk out onto the stage at whatever time and day I’m supposed to be there, be who I am, and entertain the nice people.” I never have a bad attitude about it.
So Indie Cindy. Was it always a given that if you were going to record something new that Gil [Norton, who produced the band's previous three albums] would produce it?
It probably was a given on some level between Joey [Santiago] and myself because he was kind of the guy that we knew, and he’d been trying so hard to work his way back into our situation. What he didn’t understand was that our situation as a band was dysfunctional enough that really what producer we were going to work with was the least of our concerns—we were just trying to get the four people in the same room together in agreement to jam or rehearse or have new songs or whatever. We tried to do that, and it was a total failure. It was at that point that we decided that in fact we could press forward, but the only way we could press forward was if we had Gil involved because Gil is a very positive guy. He’s not a yes man at all—he has his own agenda. And I say this with lots of love and affection, but he’s basically really sweet and really nice and he’s trying to manipulate you the whole time into doing what he wants you to do. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a battle working with him because he has such strong, passionate feelings about the way that he thinks things should be. But at the same time, he’s very diplomatic, professional, the glass is always half-full, it’s never half-empty. He doesn’t lose his cool. It’s nice because basically he’s a swell guy to hang out with. I think we always wanted to work with him, ultimately. When the difficulties the band was experiencing proved to be too much even on our own in the rehearsal room, we got him involved and we got it done. We lost Kim Deal in the process, but that was sort of to be expected. Which is fine. We totally accept her for who she is and we don’t really have a problem with her. She just couldn’t stick it out.
When I heard the new EPs, I think the first thing that came to mind was that they were noticeably shinier than stuff you’d done in the past—more poppy. Was that a concerted effort, whether by Gil or by you guys?
That’s basically the kind of producer that he is. We don’t have a problem with it. Our tendencies tend to be less shiny, but because we tend to be a little bit “scruffy” or whatever, which is why people like us, I think, and I think it’s valid to be scruffy, but it’s also valid to be scruffy and have someone force you to put on a tie and a jacket. Gil is the kind of producer who says, “No, you’re not going to go to dinner looking like that. You’re going to put on a jacket and you’re going to comb your hair and you’re going to shave and you’re going to brush your teeth and you’re going to look nice and you’re not going to embarrass me.” We sort of accept that. His way is valid also. That’s what some people I think don’t understand about the Pixies. They think that scruff is our real, most natural state or whatever, which I think is kind of true. But there’s nothing invalid about subjecting your natural state to someone else’s natural state—that’s what a producer does.
Whether it’s your painting or The Good Inn [Francis' lately published graphic novel] or the new record, how and where do ideas really percolate for you?
I might work on ideas in my downtime and I’m not really aware of it, but really, I am only aware of working on things when I have some kind of deadline. I have to have a reason, you know what I mean? I don’t know if it’s because I’m sort of blue collar in a way…I can’t just be like, “Oh, I’m feeling inspired! I think I’ll do something artistic!” At least with music. Painting and drawing, I would say I don’t really have any deadlines usually associated with doing visual arts. I find visual arts like painting and drawing to be very kind of blue collar in a way. It’s like, “Screw your fucking ideas. When are you going to get your pencil out and actually just do some shit?” You just kind of have to do it, and it’s the doing that really makes it, for me personally. It’s not about, Ooh, I have all these ideas and I have to step outside of myself. I have this vision. I have this voice inside me that must be heard. It’s like, no, I can sit around and eat bonbons and drink beer like anybody else and suddenly forget about any of this intellectual stimulus. You have to go, “All right, enough bonbons. I have to actually do something. What am I going to do?” It’s the work of it that really gets me going more than anything.
It wouldn’t be an interview if I didn’t ask you what you were listening to right now.
I usually have Erik Satie playing. [laughs] I mean, like, twenty-four hours a day when I’m on tour. I just have it playing in my room even if I’m not here, just so when I come back into the room it’s still playing. I occasionally change it up and put some Tom Waits or some Nick Drake, but mostly it’s Erik Satie. He’s sort of been my constant companion for the past six months or so.
“This is it. This is me. And I want you to come on my journey”: Jonathan Anderson on His Honest Debut Loewe Campaign-------
Despite what designers may tell you, there are few things in 2014 that are truly new. Everyone is inspired by something, whether it’s iconic photographs from decades past, seminal runway shows, an artist’s work, the list goes on. Jonathan Anderson, who showed his first collection for LVMH-owned heritage house Loewe in Paris this morning, is no different. But in his debut campaign for the house, which was unveiled yesterday, he actually did something quite fresh: He not only acknowledged his references, he highlighted them. The campaign, which was shot by Steven Meisel with art direction by M&M Paris (who also created Loewe’s revamped logo), is based on a 1997 Meisel editorial, which itself was based on an Alex Katz image. So alongside the new ads, Anderson has incorporated the old snaps. “Instead of hiding the inspiration, we just showed it,” offered Anderson, while snacking on some prawns in Paris Wednesday night. This honesty permeates his Spring ’15 menswear collection, too, which you can click through here. Ahead of his presentation, Anderson spoke with Style.com about the new ads, striving for timelessness, and why he never wants to feel like he’s “made it.”
This is the first big-budget campaign of your career. How did it go?
I keep pinching myself to believe that it’s all happening. It’s been nearly nine months in the making. When I was first thinking of Loewe, I had this 1997 Steven Meisel Vogue Italia editorial in mind, which was based on an Alex Katz picture. It was a group of kids on the beach, and I pitched it to the group. We were trying to work out how to tackle the house’s historical credentials. We got M&M on board to do the logo, and then it was, Well, how do we make imagery for this brand and show it as a cultural reference to fashion, a cultural reference to non-fashion? So we came up with the idea to reuse the 1997 Meisel images, and then we did new imagery with Meisel. We superimposed both, and used the idea of the fashion reference. There was no point in asking Meisel to re-create the image. It was more exciting to show his work now as art.
It feels very meta—this idea of Meisel referencing himself referencing Alex Katz. How does that tie in to your approach to this first collection?
I want Loewe to become a cultural brand. For me, the challenge was how do I take a [heritage] brand and make it modern for right now? We see these images in fashion repeated and copied and repeated and copied, and I thought it was better to just show them. They exist and they’re sharp and modern. I want Loewe to be an honest brand, and I want it to be open to new forms of fashion, new forms of imagery, and new forms of information. So by taking the still life of the bag and shooting it against a white backdrop, it is the bag. We’re not hiding anything—that’s it.
You included some pieces from the Loewe archive in the campaign. As an experimental designer, how did you go about working with Loewe’s archive to create your Spring ’15 imagery?
Well, I had to think, Do I reject the archive or do I embrace the archive? When I looked at the products from past decades, or when I looked at all the logos from years gone by, I loved what these things referred to culturally—what was happening at the time in photography, art, sports, music. All that was reflected in the logos. And when I looked at products, they did the same. In 1846, when trunks were necessary, Loewe had trunks. And then when it came to the seventies and the birth of airlines, you see the bags developed. Loewe has always been reactionary, and I wanted to show a work in progress, because this brand is a work in progress for me. So the campaign images are basically saying, “This is it. This is me. And I want you to come on my journey.”
What do you hope these images convey about the collection you’re sending down the runway?
That clothing exists in the world, in many forms and many decades. And ultimately in the end, you never really own it. It becomes part of the zeitgeist. I want people to see this as an edit—a very personal edit of a man’s wardrobe. This is my first major serious job, and it’s a big undertaking, and I want people to see that this is what it is, and we’re going to take it in many different angles, but fundamentally, it will be culturally aware.
The campaign shots you sent over are very accessories-driven, but there’s one striking image of a model wearing a look from the menswear collection, posing against a Saran-wrapped backdrop. Can you tell me about this photograph?
The concept is the idea of the nothingness. It’s the purity of the silhouette and the character within. I wanted to convey the idea that you were unpacking something, and that’s what it was. I love that this image looks like a work in progress. Ultimately, it’s a jersey suit, and in my mind the Loewe man is on the beach, in a jersey suit and espadrilles. He’s on the beach and being cool, even if it’s been boiling hot all day. I like the lightness, the airiness. I love how the flesh looks with the jersey. It has this naive effect. And it’s not anything more than that. I didn’t want to rush into the brand. I want to nurture it.
Did you feel that you had to go a more commercial route for these images than you would with ads for your own label?
I never thought about it as, “We have to be commercial.” I think that’s always a trap. I was just thinking, Does this feel right? The product has to make sense for me and for the consumer. I think this is consumer-led advertising because it’s coming right now—the product will be in the store in the next couple of weeks, so I want to know what the customer is thinking. I need to know what the buyer is thinking. That’s the nerve-racking part, but it’s also the most exciting part.
I remember interviewing you when you did your first campaign for J.W. Anderson. It was beautiful, but very DIY. Now you’re working with some of the biggest people in the business. Do you feel this campaign is a “made it” moment?
I don’t know if it’s a “made it” [moment]. I think, as a designer, you never really feel like you’ve “made it.” And if you do, it’s kind of worrying. I’m just so grateful that Steven and M&M wanted to work with me, and I think this campaign is a milestone for Loewe. It encompasses what this brand has fundamentally been about for many years. But we live in the day of social media, where images are devoured and devoured. People who were not involved in the fashion world would not know if Meisel’s image was shot today or twenty years ago. That’s what’s so interesting about Meisel. His work has got that element of timelessness, and that’s something I want in my products—for them to feel timeless.
How are you feeling leading up to the big debut?
It’s a lot of work. We’ve got our new building. We have the advertising campaign. We have the menswear collection, we have the bag collection, everything. And then it goes into stores in a couple weeks. There are a lot of balls in the air, but I have an amazing team of people who have been incredible. I’m very lucky that someone has basically said, “We trust you to do it.” I want to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to seeing that beach scene on a kiosk. I’m looking forward to seeing it in a magazine. I’m looking forward to seeing clothing on people. Loewe has become my brand, but it is Loewe. I’m here as a guest, but we’re rebuilding, and we’re rebuilding a house that has incredible craft and technology and details that I’ve never seen before in my entire life. Every day, I get up a 6 a.m. because I’m excited. And I think that’s what it should be about.
As Dsquared² approaches its 20th anniversary, it’s apparent that Dean and Dan Caten are enjoying the success of the brand they built. On the eve of their Spring/Summer 2015 runway show, the Dsquared² studio in Milan is not a frantic madhouse of last-minute fittings and collection edits. In the large room in the refurbished warehouse where the brand (and the restaurant/nightclub they own) is based, racks of clothing organized into looks line the walls, shoes are in a neat row on the floor, bags and accessories are laid out neatly on tables. Dan Caten seems relaxed. He’s enjoying a cup of tea and a croissant. The soundtrack for tomorrow’s show is playing on the sound system, a mix he and his brother created that starts with a line from the film Factory Girl. Things are surprisingly calm. Not the scene you’d expect less than twenty-four hours away from the show. But Dsquared² isn’t quite like other brands. They don’t quite fit in with their fashion cohorts in Milan, but that’s fine with them. They like it that way. We caught up with Dan (with an appearance from Dean) to chat about the new collection, the scene in Milan, and the brand’s global expansion.
Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for the new collection?
It’s the art world. It’s the studio—the New York studio. References from Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Stephen Sprouse. So it starts in the sixties and the early Andy days, and then it kind of evolves through to the 1980s.
When you say “studio,” do you imagine these as the guys who work in the studio as artists?
Well, it’s just to put them in a place. We kind of said, “OK, they’re living in a New York loft and maybe he’s a painter or maybe it’s his art studio.” Andy’s Factory or whatever.
But more casual than a gallery.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it’s dirty and messy. It’s got skylights and it’s got paint on the floor and lots of paintings everywhere. Yeah. A bit real.
Your retail business is growing rapidly. What are your expansion plans for the stores?
We’re really pushing retail, especially in America. We’re opening three stores this year: our flagship in New York, which is in Soho; Los Angeles, we’re doing Rodeo Drive; and we’re doing one in Miami and Bal Harbour. They should be all up and running before December.
How many are there worldwide?
About thirty-two, I think now. But this is our first big push for America because we’re not in America at all. You’ll be seeing more of us in America soon.
What’s the importance of that for you?
Well, it’s a big market that doesn’t really know who we are or what our brand is about. It’s a weird thing because on our online store, the biggest customers are Americans, and it’s really weird. And that’s why we said, “Fuck, obviously we’re missing a market here because the biggest percentage of people who are buying online are Americans from Los Angeles.” It’s actually really good information—you understand a lot about your clients and what they want, and you can see what they’re buying. And actually, it’s what kind of gave us a kick in the ass to say, “OK, we better get on it.”
What cities are most interesting to you?
L.A. is where we have the most shoppers online, so that was one of the boosts for L.A. And then we got a really great space right beside Saint Laurent on Rodeo Drive—it’s actually going to be really cool. And it’s interesting because we’re kind of modifying our concepts for the stores, so as we’re maturing, the concepts are kind of maturing—they’re getting a little lighter, a little cleaner. Keeping up to date, I think. And they’re nice. So all the American stores are going to have a kind of different look. We just opened a store also in Mykonos and in Porto Cervo, so those are our two summer stores, and they’re lighter as well and they’re nice.
Are there things you’ll do specifically for an American market?
We do a different buy for each store. I mean, L.A.’s different from New York. We will do special things because we’re doing special things for other boutiques. Like Mykonos—we did some swimwear and some bags and different stuff for those markets. So probably for sure, something in New York. It’s always cute when you get something that you can only get in New York or only get in L.A. It’s kind of novel.
Especially for your customers, who are probably loyal to your brand and they also travel.
We did a silly Mykonos boxer-short bathing suit. They had a hundred and they sold them all in, like, two months.
Everyone’s talking about Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong. Is the Asian market important to your business right now?
Yeah. We actually opened up a new store in Hong Kong. We have two stores in Hong Kong now. We opened a brand-new store in Shanghai which is beautiful. We actually closed at Shanghai fashion week because the government invited us there, so it was kind of a push to promote the brand in China. I think we have seven stores in China already now and we have three partners and we’re going strong to get more. We have a definite plan. It’s just good for us. Tokyo, we actually have two really nice big stores. China seems to be the place where everybody’s nesting.
Does the restaurant business continue to interest you guys? How’s that going?
It’s going really, really well. Really, really well. It’s kind of like a cool place to be. The food’s great, the ambience is great. It’s very different from here, and I think that’s why it’s working. It’s not so “Milan.” It’s got a really international flavor, and I think that’s what’s cool about it. And it’s also like you can go and be seen—it’s quite cozy the way we designed it, also. Everything’s kind of in a booth. You have your individual space, your area, but you can always see who’s walking through or who’s coming in, so it’s kind of got that scene thing, which we love. It’s kind of like a fashion show—you see everyone walk by. The chef’s great, our partner’s great We got a lot of requests to do them in other places, so we’ll see. Maybe in New York. That could be like another business.
Milan has a reputation for being a bit staid, and you guys are obviously known to have one of the more fun shows. Do you think Milan needs to get with it?
I kind of like standing out here. We don’t really fit in so well, and it’s kind of a plus for us. I think we give something different to this fashion. Everybody [does theirs] in their way, and we do ours our own way. We go to the left when they go to the right. I don’t know.
What do you guys love about Milan more generally?
It’s a great city. It’s a good fashion week, especially for men. I love it. It’s a little hometown-y sometimes because it’s not really a big city. That’s why we live in London and we just come here back and forth and it gives us a little bit of an escape. It’s good for work, it’s good for shows, and it’s good for selling.
Other than working, what are your other summer plans?
We go back to Canada on the 26th. We see family. Then we’ll go probably to Greece to go to a promotion for our Greek store and stay there for the summer.
Is going back to Canada a way to get away from fashion and decompress?
No, actually, it’s more work. We’re organizing a big Christmas dinner for our two hundred family members that we haven’t seen for, like, twenty years. Our grandparents used to do this for Christmas day—we’d all go to Grandma’s house and I’d meet my cousins, I’d meet everybody, and she died and no one does that anymore. So we kind of said, “Let’s do it. Let’s be the host and we’ll host you all.” So they’re all excited.
Getting back in touch with cousins.
What city is it in?
Toronto. Christmas day.
Is anyone else in the family in the fashion business?
No. Just the two little ones.
Well, good luck with that. That sounds more difficult than a fashion show.
Kind of the same thing. With food.
It’s been a year since Alexandre Mattiussi, the founder and designer of burgeoning menswear brand Ami, took home the €250,000 ANDAM prize. As he prepares to pass on his crown and sash—and to show his Spring ’15 menswear collection in Paris—Mattiussi reflects on a fruitful year that included a new Paris store, his first runway show, and a revamped website. Here, the designer speaks with Style.com about his forthcoming collection, the importance of accessibility, and his little red cap.
It’s been a year since your ANDAM win. How are you feeling now?
Before ANDAM, I thought, Maybe we could win, and we did. When I do something, it’s a thousand percent, whether it’s creative or commercial. Winning the ANDAM is like winning the César. Since then, I’ve had lots of requests for advice, and I always say, “The point is to see your clothes worn.” If I were a baker, my attitude would be the same—I’d want people to line up for my cake, and it would not cost $15,000.
Renzo Rosso, who’s mentoring you post-ANDAM, said that he sees a lot of himself in you.
We share a birthday—September 15—and a lucky number, so there must be something to it. He’s helped us a lot with gaining international visibility, and he brought us cred.
So what did you do with the money?
I got a total makeover and liposuction, can’t you tell? We moved offices. I hired my intern. We redid the website and launched e-commerce. We hired a PR for the U.S. market. We held a fashion show in January; our second one is Saturday. Now I have more time to think about how I will create the wardrobe I’ve always wanted to, with a little more spice. We feel like we’re building. Three weeks ago we opened a new boutique at 22 Rue de Grenelle on the Left Bank. We’re looking at London for 2015, and New York, of course.
What’s changed for you personally?
My personal life changed. I quit smoking. People start recognizing you—I feel like a singer or something. They see me riding my scooter around town and yell, “Ami!” I love that people love the brand. They recognize my red bonnet—it’s not a gimmick, I’ve been wearing one since I was a kid. My father just unearthed a picture of me at age 8 wearing one. It’s like we’re creating this little character—people are coming to expect it. I was in Tokyo recently, and all these young people were asking me where that bonnet was, so I had to go back to the hotel and get it.
What’s different about the new boutique compared with the original one on the Boulevard Beaumarchais?
I love the Left Bank. My mother worked in a shop there for a while. I love the energy of that neighborhood. The idea was a tailor’s shop, a neighborhood place, with a coffee bar in back. I wanted it to be chic but easy. And a photographer friend, Nicolas Wagner, is putting up a rogues’ gallery of friends wearing a red bonnet.
What should we expect from your show this Saturday?
We’re doing it at this very French high school, the Lycée Carnot. I wanted to stage a little youthquake, starting in the cradle of amitié [friendship]. That means a lot of color—yellow, red, blue, green—oversize coats, technical fabrics. But there will always be a navy jacket and a camel coat at Ami. We’re also doing more accessories, like backpacks and sneakers. I just want it to be fun, joyful, and no beards.
Why did you gravitate toward this youthful theme?
When I was in fashion school, people were less invested in their personal style—we couldn’t be, we had no money. Today, I notice that even the students are really styled and there are always super-interesting things going on in the street. When you look at young people, you realize that they are seriously cool. That said, my mother thinks I dress like a teenager—she’s shocked that I don’t wear socks with my sneakers.
This question’s been following you since Ami opened: What about women’s clothes?
I like keeping Ami for men, although women do buy our clothes. When I sketch, it’s always [a] masculine [silhouette], even if it’s on a feminine form. I love dressing women in menswear—Caroline de Maigret walked for us in January wearing a men’s suit. I say without pretense that I love what Hedi Slimane did with Dior Homme for Parisian youth. Also, I just finished working for Bally on a women’s collection that will be available next season—they gave me carte blanche, and I really had fun with it. I have one other collaboration coming up. But we’ve registered Ami(e), and I am thinking about a capsule of iconic men’s pieces for women. No dresses. But I’m 33. I have time!
What’s your creative process?
I don’t really have creative hang-ups—I can sketch out a collection at the dinner table with friends. You have to know yourself. When I first worked at Givenchy men’s with Riccardo [Tisci], we did pink lace Bermudas for Spring 2005. But I realized I couldn’t do that, and that’s why I would have made a lousy assistant. Later on, I realized that I did not want to design things that I could not afford myself. Fashion is dangerous that way. There’s an imbalance between dreaming up a dress that costs a bomb and the real world.
So what is your ambition?
I have an ego. But being a star or going on vacation with celebrities or whatever is not the goal. If it happens naturally, great. But I know who I am and what my reality is. C’est ça la vie [That's what life's all about].
Peter Dundas is a Renaissance man. Literally. Since 2002, the Norwegian-born designer has split his time between Paris and Florence—the Italian metropolis that is both the birthplace of the Renaissance and the hometown of Pucci, where Dundas has served as creative director for the past six years. Last week, during Pitti Uomo, Dundas invited the fashion set to an appropriately over-the-top bash at the famed Palazzo Pucci, the family’s home and headquarters in the center of Firenze. The party served to celebrate the brand’s Florentine roots, as well as an unprecedented art installation, in which Piazza del Duomo’s historic Battistero was, as Dundas put it, “dressed” in more than 20,000 square meters of Pucci-printed canvas.
But as Dundas explained at a bustling café the following morning, his relationship with Florence spans far beyond his Pucci gig. “I love the weather, I love the light, and I love the food,” said the designer, brushing his golden mop of curls out of his face. While sipping on a Coke, Dundas, who looked like a cross between a Norse god and a Michelangelo in his fitted white jeans, unbuttoned denim shirt, and snakeskin shoes, spoke to Style.com about licorice gelato, his “terribly boring wardrobe,” and getting into trouble.
What were your impressions when you first moved to Florence? Were you excited to be in this Renaissance wonderland, or disappointed to be spending so much time away from Paris?
I was very excited to come here. I knew Florence quite a bit because all of the houses I worked for previously had some connection with Italy. But of course the first impression of Florence is overwhelming. It’s so permeated by Renaissance history. Anything less than 500 years old is seen as tacky, so coming here was quite impressive. I actually based my first collection on the idea of Palazzo Pucci—the girl in her own habitat. It became a motif and a concept that carried over to the show space and the showrooms and the shops as well. Updated versions of the palazzo elements and Florence itself continue to influence me. I work in a Renaissance palazzo, I live in a Renaissance palazzo, I hang out in cafés in front of a palazzo, and I get in trouble in front of Renaissance palazzos—as I hope [the original Florentines] did.
Do you get into trouble often?
It does happen a little bit more than I’d like it to.
You mentioned that Florence’s Renaissance art and architecture continue to inspire you, but your clothes are very modern. How do you work in these influences specifically?
Florence is kind of this backdrop that my girl inhabits. It’s a counterpoint to who she is. In my mind, the dresses that I do are just T-shirts—gilded T-shirts, but T-shirts nonetheless. So it makes sense for me to both complement and contrast this environment.
Did you already speak Italian when you moved to Florence, or did you have to learn?
I’m Norwegian, and even in Norway, you have a problem speaking Norwegian. We don’t make enough babies [to sustain the language], not that I don’t try. Speaking Italian for me is natural. I left home when I was 14, and I’ve been living all over the place. And it’s a Latin language, so going from French to Italian is easy.
You worked for a handful of French brands—Lacroix and Gaultier among them—before becoming Pucci’s creative director. What are the differences between French and Italian houses?
As far as aesthetic goes, the Italians are more impulsive and less afraid of mixing colors and patterns and embellishments and embroideries. Italian fashion is more about pleasure for the eyes, whereas there’s more of a cerebral process to the French way of dressing. But the French have marked me, and what I do today is a collective continuity of what I’ve always done. So there’s a bit of la Parisienne in what I do because I do love her profoundly. And I love the wit of the English girl and the Italian dolce vita all wrapped into one. It’s good to have layers.
What about your personal aesthetic? Do you dress differently here than you do in Paris or London?
No, I don’t. I have a terribly boring wardrobe. I always dress the same.
That’s funny, working for a house like Pucci.
I have my uniform. I’m always in white jeans. I suppose in London, I think twice about what I wear, and in Paris you don’t want to wear bad shoes. But I’m not quite sure about my look.
Looks pretty good to me. Are there any Florentine monuments that still strike you when you see them?
The first time you see Michelangelo’s David, it makes a very strong impression. I think the Ponte Vecchio does as well. But I have lots of places in Florence that I absolutely love. I love water, so I love the river. I work out in a rowing club that’s on the river. It has a great café. I don’t actually row out on the water—two years down the line, I still haven’t had time to learn—so I just work out there. I refuse propositions for rowing every week from my friends. I just don’t have the time. I guess team sports aren’t that compatible with fashion.
Do you get lonely?
No, I don’t. I like solitude.
What’s your idea of the perfect day in Florence?
Well, if I have a day off in Florence, I usually end up at the Four Seasons by the pool with friends. They have this amazing beach garden, and it’s fun to have drinks and hang around the pool and get a massage. Harry’s Bar on the river is, like, 50 feet from my house, so I’m there a lot. And Cammillo [on Borgo San Jacopo] is my Sunday restaurant. All the Florentine families go there for dinner when their help is off for the day. It’s one of my favorite places because it’s so authentic.
So what’s your favorite thing to eat here? What must I order before I leave?
Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino. It’s simple—just spaghetti with garlic, pepper, and olive oil—but it’s amazing. Especially if you can get the olive oil in November, when the olives have just been pressed. It tastes almost spicy and it has this absinthe green-colored tint. The problem is once you enjoy Italian food here, you don’t want to eat it anywhere else. Mozzarella doesn’t travel well. Oh, and the truffles, with pasta, they’re incredible. And if you’re here in Florence, you have to eat ice cream. Gelato is from here. When Catherine de Médicis wasn’t busy making poisons, she actually invented ice cream, so you have to go at night and eat some. My favorite is licorice. I think I’m the only person in the world who likes that flavor, which is great, because they never run out.
I have to say, I’m in love with Florence, but the swarms of tourists are a little overwhelming. Is there anywhere you go to hide from the hustle and bustle?
My place. I have a really nice flat. I live in a palazzo down by the river. I have this amazing terrace on the top floor where only the priests at Il Duomo can see me.
Hopefully they haven’t seen anything too scandalous.
Well, you know. I haven’t had any complaints yet.
Speaking of Il Duomo, what’s been the reaction to the Pucci installation?
It’s been amazing. I love the contrast of taking something very traditional and institutional and then doing something completely modern. That’s a bit what my work is—being in Florence and being in the Palazzo Pucci. You know, dressing the Battistero at the Piazza del Duomo in a contemporary design with contemporary colors just looks so amazing. It’s a really healthy thing to see in Florence, too, because usually anything new is designed to blend in with the traditional architecture, whereas this installation completely broke things up. It’s amazing to see how energizing that can be. I think it’s very healthy for the city and for Florence to open its mind to that.