The Genteel
April 17, 2021


Asim Abdullah.

The house of Emanuel Ungaro is preparing to usher in another era with the appointment of Italian designer Fausto Puglisi as the brand's creative director - the lastest to walk through Ungaro's revolving door. The appointment has on-lookers wondering whether Puglisi will be the one under which the once-thriving fashion house can recover from years of instability. 

The brand's owner, Asim Abdullah, purchased the struggling fashion house in 2005. Curiously, while Abdullah was a highly successful high-tech entrepreneur, he had no knowledge about the fashion industry. "I know nothing about this business. I'll be very honest with you, I don't want to know anything - it would take me years to learn," Abdullah reportedly told Mounir Moufarrige, former CEO of Emanuel Ungaro, whom Abdullah had entrusted with the direction of the brand - with questionable results. 

Although the struggling global economy has had an undeniable impact on the fashion industry as a whole, the house of Ungaro seems to have experienced greater financial hardship than many other luxury brands. This past spring, the New York Post reported that the company had lost more than US$6 million in the last year, leading some fashion spectators to wonder if it could survive.

By teaming up with Aeffe Group, ...[Asim] Abdullah may at last be infusing Ungaro with much needed experienced business and fashion direction.

By teaming up with Aeffe Group, the firm involved in the design, production and distribution of a collective of fashion brands including Alberta Ferretti, Jean Paul Gaultier and Cacharel, Abdullah may at last be infusing Ungaro with much needed experienced business and fashion direction.

It was Aeffe that was responsible for appointing Puglisi to his new role; a move that the company hopes will revitalise the struggling brand. Unsurprisingly, the freedom to select and appoint Ungaro's creative director was not only a key strategic move, but also a deal breaker, reported the New York Times. "We were only prepared to work if we were given the opportunity to choose a designer with more than a two-season contract," said Massimo Ferretti, president of the Aeffe Group.

The company's frequent changing of design hands seems to have taken its toll. Over the past decade appointments to lead the creative design team have ranged from the immeasurably talented, Giambasttista Valli, to the outrageously disastrous, Lindsay Lohan, opening debate as to whether Ungaro is able to survive without its namesake.

In 2004, after a brilliant career that spanned several decades, Emanuel Ungaro not only left his leading role, but seemingly left the house without the vision it so desperately needed to survive in a dynamic fashion sphere. While the brand continued its attempts to produce collections that resonated with both buyers and industry insiders, it failed to strike the relevant chord that it did during the '80s and '90s, when the brand's fluid and dramatic styles were highly-coveted.

Fausto Puglisi and Massimo

Despite the naysayers, Ungaro isn't giving up just yet. With Puglisi at the front of the house, the brand is promising to return to Paris Fashion Week for A/W 2013. It's an ambitious goal for a house that hasn't featured a runway collection since October 2011, yet as WWD reports, Ferretti is confident that there's much more in store for it, "Emanuel Ungaro is a brand that has left a significant mark and still has a lot to say."

Even so, some might say that it's a tall order for Puglisi, a newly minted creative director, whose most notable designs to date include the ram's head masks that he created for Madonna's MDNA tour costumes. At the same time, Puglisi's gigs, including consulting at Versace and his own line, which is available at Dolce & Gabanna's Milan store, seem to have him ranked and ready for a breakout year on the Paris runway.

As Ferretti told WWD, "Puglisi is a young talent with an international visibility - but with strong roots in our Latin world  - and who will be able to turn it into a new and contemporary line." Perhaps this is exactly what Ungaro needs - an up-and-coming designer who is ready to spread his wings and - finally - impart a strong vision for the iconic brand.



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