A Sicilian who grew up obsessing over Hollywood and idolizing Gianni Versace, Fausto Puglisi was born to make short, leggy dresses. Madonna handpicked the guy to outfit Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. for her Super Bowl halftime performance before most of the people at his show tonight even knew who he was. But at the moment he’s battling dueling instincts. On the one hand, there are his proclivities for micro hemlines and macro crystals; on the other, there’s the pressure of trying to grow a solid business. He knows as well as we all do that brands aren’t built on rhinestone-studded cheerleader skirts alone.
Those challenges were writ large at a new show that found Puglisi aiming in several directions at once—ancient Rome, the 1960s of Courrèges and Gernreich, and the punk scene. Gladiator skirts mingled with salopettes, which shared the runway with holey sweaters and perforated dresses. The varied reference points weren’t necessarily the problem, but many of the looks were heavily layered and wound up looking bulky around the midsection. And let’s face it, orange and acid green just aren’t easy colors to love. Inevitably, it was the least fussy pieces that connected. A lampshade dress in silk duchesse had a clean, sculptural flair reminiscent of Puglisi’s early collections, and there was a relaxed elegance to the zip-front tank gown he showed with studded gladiator sandals that felt new. Puglisi’s got a great graphic sense; geometric black-and-white prints were the strongest element in the show. And he still cuts a mean Perfecto jacket, the gold foil version being a particular standout. To borrow a football analogy from old Madge, this show wasn’t a touchdown, but we’re rooting for Fausto.