NEW YORK -- When Emanuel Ungaro began designing on his own in the mid-Sixties, the fashion establishment thought his mad mixes of prints were off the wall.
Today, his sits on top of a $250 million fashion empire, one of the few couturiers who still owns his house, with licenses for women's lines, men's wear, accessories and perfume, and boutiques and in-store shops around the world.
Ungaro was in town this week for the official opening Wednesday of his new shop, which was relocated to 792 Madison Avenue, just half a block south and across the street from the previous location. It is a slightly smaller space, but now it is a corner site with big windows, bathed in natural light from two sides.
He is also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the introduction of his collections in the U.S. Next year marks 30 years in couture, and 20 years since he launched his fragrance business, a license of Chanel Perfumes.
He characterizes his career as obsessive and full of risks.
In 1968, a year which he considers pivotal in his career as well as for fashion in general, Ungaro opened his Parallele boutique in Paris with his first rtw collection. It was then that he began mixing prints.
"I got a terrible reaction from the fashion community," he recalled. "Everyone said I was crazy. But I continued. For me, it was a necessity. It was freedom."
He called 1968 "a turning point," illustrated by the need to translate the new feelings of young people into clothes.
"I wanted to be myself, with a brutal sense of creation, a new language and a new feeling. I can do that because I am my own boss, my maison is [funded by] my own money, and I can take the risks I want."
He does not dwell on past collections.
"When a collection is finished, it is finished. You have to forget it and enter into another world," he said. "Right now, I'm completely obsessed with spring ready-to-wear. I wake up in the middle of the night to write things down about the collection.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"