Meet the man who dressed a pregnant Beyonce: Exclusive HT Brunch interview – brunch feature

Tracking down fashion designer Peter Dundas is easy: you could follow him on Instagram for a ringside view to his wanderlust, which can take you from Paris to Rome, his studios in London and the beaches of Miami in just a few days.  

But to actually pin him down is difficult. At the time of this Zoom call, he is in Greece living an island life in lockdown, though he is hoping to return to his London studio soon.  

The 51-year-old designer has been at the creative helm of Emanuel Ungaro, Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli. Three years ago he set up his own self-funded label, Dundas World, with his partner in business and life, Evangelo Bousis, who he describes as the one with the business and strategy savvy.

“Without him, I could not have started the label,” says Dundas. His clothes talk of a lifestyle; they have a feel of high-octane bohemian glamour served with a generous side helping of rock chic. This has been his signature throughout his career.

A pregnant Beyoncé was the label’s first muse, wearing Dundas World to the Grammys in 2017, a beaded, art deco-inspired gold gown. Her dress was hand embroidered with cherubs, her lyrics and even her own image: it was a work of art.

(From left to right) A pregnant Beyoncé in a Dundas World creation at the Grammys, 2017; Peter Dundas with his partner Evangelo Bousis; Dundas, 4, getting a hair-cut

(From left to right) A pregnant Beyoncé in a Dundas World creation at the Grammys, 2017; Peter Dundas with his partner Evangelo Bousis; Dundas, 4, getting a hair-cut

Dundas’s debut collection was sold on the luxury e-commerce platform, Moda Operandi, taking a “seasonless” approach to fashion from the start. The label was not part of the conventional fashion week system, and the brand also did not invest in bricks-and-mortar stores but had travelling flagships, which popped up in holiday spots such as Mykonos and also in global fashion cities such as New York and Los Angeles, marrying the online world with the offline.

The language Dundas spoke seemed foreign to fashion then, but now it’s the vocabulary that every brand seems to be using. “When I launched Dundas World, we were starting with a blank page. We looked at the market and felt this made sense,” says the designer.

The women of Dundas world

Like every fashion label, Dundas World has made some pivots during these unprecedented times. Dundas’s brand is known for its special occasion wear, but recently launched Dundas Active and soon will add a loungewear and an eyewear collection.

“What this pandemic has done is speed up the process of what is happening in fashion. There was a need to address the reality of how people live today,” says the designer. His advice to other independent designers at this moment is to be “consumer centric”. 

“India seems so vibrant, refreshing, and different to the Nordic way of life, which is reserved” -Peter Dundas

Dundas has a real understanding of who his women are and has dressed some of the world’s most glamorous women, including Michelle Obama, Zendaya and Kim Kardashian West. Priyanka Chopra, Isha Ambani, Deepika Padukone and Natasha Poonawalla are all also #DundasGirls. One of Deepika’s most memorable red carpet appearances was in a custom-made voluminous gown with an oversized black bow, plunging neckline and sweeping train, worn at the Cannes Film Festival last year. 

Dundas has met Deepika and her husband Ranveer Singh, and says they are one of the most fun-loving couples he has ever met. Since he believes his label is for the “love of life”, it is not surprising that so many of the women he dresses live the jet set life. That includes Natasha Poonawalla, whom he has known since his days at Pucci.

For those in fashion, there is no bigger night out than The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s opening night ball, popularly known as the Met Gala. It takes place in New York on the first Monday in May. Last year, Natasha attended the gala in an embellished silver mini dress worn with a detachable voluminous ice blue skirt – she looked like a very modern day princess (see Cover Story).  

“Natasha is fabulous to work with and made a real entrance in the dress, yet it was practical and easy to move in,” recalls the designer. He describes her as “a great unofficial ambassador for India”.

A love affair with India

It comes as no surprise that Dundas enjoys dressing Indian women: his love of India is apparent in his collections. He first came to India before he joined Christian Lacroix as head designer in 2000 and travelled all around the country from Varanasi to the backwaters of Kerala.

Deepika Padukone in a Dundas gown at the Cannes Film Festival last year 

Deepika Padukone in a Dundas gown at the Cannes Film Festival last year 

“I love the colours of India, the traditions, the food and the people. It seems so vibrant, refreshing, and different to the Nordic way of life, which is reserved,” says Dundas. Many of his creations use craft techniques from the country. “When it comes to Indian crafts, I have gluttony, I enjoy it all,” he says. It took 50 Indian embroiderers (karigars) to help create Beyonce’s Grammy dress and Dundas made sure to credit them in all his interviews. Not many European fashion houses talk about India – the role of this country’s crafts in international fashion is underplayed for many reasons. Dundas says, “European fashion would look very different without the beautiful craftmanship they get from India.”

He is in constant touch with the embroidery houses he works with in Mumbai and has teamed up with quaran-T, an initiative set up by Swedish brand incubator Bozzil and renowned Mumbai embroidery house Saks India to launch a charitable T-shirt label that will feature the artwork of designers, celebrities and fashion students in support of the karigars. His is the first T-shirt, and the designer says, “In the spirit of transparency and honesty, the entrusted karigars that quaran-T has partnered with for this will sign an official document declaring the number of people who will benefit from the funds as well as what purpose the funds will be used for, depending on the individual needs of each factory.”

The voiceof fashion

During this time of lockdown, fashion has come out as an industry that is willing to lend its voice to support many causes from migrant workers to #BlackLivesMatter. It has also come under the spotlight itself for not being inclusive enough. “We really are all in the same boat,” says Dundas. “We all need to strive to be more inclusive. Fashion is a social reflection and we have the opportunity to be frontrunners.”

Of course, this has been a hard time for all brands in fashion. “Large brands have the challenges of large retail networks being in trouble and young companies have cash flow issues,” says the designer.

Dundas recalls that he joined Pucci in 2008, during the recession. “If times are depressing do not make depressing clothes,” advises Dundas. He believes fashion should always be about a feel-good factor, while also being responsive to the circumstances of the world. Which means that while his label may now be looking at loungewear, you can expect it to have that signature Dundas ‘Glamazon’ vibe.

From HT Brunch, August 9, 2020

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