Peter Dundas has a reputation as a classy designer. In his varied career, he’s proven his talents at Emanuel Ungaro (doing haute Parisian), Revillon (fur), and Emilio Pucci(sexy rock-chick dressing). Now Dundas has circled back to Roberto Cavalli, the house where he began his career—and where, incidentally, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing was once his assistant.
Over the past couple of years, the competition among labels to capture the imagination of a new generation has resulted in a remarkable changing of the guard. The domino effect started with Hedi Slimane’s democratizing, youth-cult-y success at Saint Laurent; it flowed on through Alessandro Michele’s eclectic, vintage-y takeover at Gucci; and most recently it hit New York, putting Public School in charge at DKNY. For his Cavalli comeback, Dundas has handled the commercial situation by sidestepping the haute and embracing street and nightclub-wear with an ’80s spin. The result: skimpy body-con dresses, high-waisted animal-print jeans and leggings, sleeveless biker jackets, bandeau tops tied in pouf-y bows on one shoulder, and prom skirts trailing giant frilled trains in their wake.
There is nothing wrong with tinkering with ’80s styling per se—Miuccia Prada, Jonathan Anderson, and Christopher Kane are all dab hands at playing with Princess Di yoked collars, pumped-up Gloria von Thurn und Taxis leg-of-mutton sleeves, and jangling Christian Lacroix-meets-Memphis color and pattern. There’s a fine line of irony, though, which divides the intriguingly kitsch from the literal and cheap looking. Dundas was on sure ground when he tailored leather into neat jackets and sexy pants; these showed his long-standing expertise as a cutter and fitter for beautiful young girls bent on having a good time. But Dundas still needs to find that difficult balance between accessibility and designer leadership. He has all the talent and experience it takes, and a huge swath of friends and goodwill following him. His track record suggests that by next season, he’ll have it figured out. Written by Sarah Mower for Vogue.com