MILAN — Florence continues to beckon Peter Dundas.
This story first appeared in the March 20, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On Thursday, Roberto Cavalli SpA appointed Dundas as the Florence-based company’s new creative director, confirming speculation reported by WWD as far back as October. The Norwegian designer had been the artistic director of Emilio Pucci, also based in Florence, since 2008.
Dundas’ first collection for Cavalli will bow in Milan in September.
“This is a homecoming for me. It is an honor for me to continue to evolve the wonderful world of Roberto Cavalli, and I am very excited by the possibilities and potential of this unique brand. I cannot wait to get started,” said Dundas, who worked with Cavalli and his wife, Eva as head designer from 2002 to 2005.
The Cavallis said choosing Dundas stemmed from “the desire to evolve a style that combines glamour, tradition and innovation, recognized worldwide as the signature of Cavalli since the birth of the house.”
Asked about the future of the designing couple, a spokeswoman said the Cavallis “will continue to supervise the respect of the brand’s style and support the relaunch of the company guaranteeing continuity with the past.”
The announcement comes as Roberto Cavalli, owner of the brand, is negotiating the sale of a majority stake in his company to Italian private equity firm Clessidra SGR SpA. The deal should be completed at the end of this month or early April, chief executive officer Daniele Corvasce said in February before the Just Cavalli show.
Dundas cut his teeth working behind the scenes at Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix. His first major solo appointment came in 2005 when he was named artistic director at Ungaro. After Ungaro, the designer consulted for Dolce & Gabbana before being appointed creative director of French furrier Revillon in January 2008. Known for his luxury Boho, Seventies, rock-sexy designs and knack with prints, Dundas’ sensibility is perceived to be in sync with Cavalli’s own feminine and head-turning looks, animal prints and body-hugging silhouettes that have long been red-carpet mainstays.
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said “Dundas’ understanding of supersexy, exotic, rock-’n’-roll-infused fashion makes his return to Roberto Cavalli the perfect pairing of designer and brand.”
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente, agreed, viewing Dundas’ return to Cavalli as a “great fit,” since the designer’s “very sensual style is perfect for the brand.” She also said Dundas has a “certain star power himself, a personal glamour that can add strength to the brand and make it more appealing.”
Dundas is no stranger to the party circuit, and is frequently spotted on the arms of “It” girls and models including Natasha Poly, Poppy Delevingne or Bianca Brandolini D’Adda, echoing Cavalli’s own flamboyant lifestyle and star-studded events on his yacht at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dundas will be responsible for the creative direction of the women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections, as well as all licenses. He will also be directly involved in the marketing and communication strategies of the brand.
Sources say once the Clessidra deal is completed, Cavalli will retain a 10 percent stake in the firm he founded in 1970. Clessidra is paying around 400 million euros, or $423.5 million at current exchange, for the 90 percent interest.
As reported, the Cavalli company ended 2014 with a decline in profits but gains in revenues, blaming socioeconomic gyrations, declines in the wholesale channel and financial troubles hitting a licensee. The firm reported unaudited earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 14.8 million euros, or $19.6 million, down 33.9 percent compared with the previous year.
Without taking into consideration extraordinary items connected to the devaluation of credits from licensees and nonrecurring costs, EBITDA would have risen 8.9 percent to 24.4 million euros, or $32.4 million.
In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, sales rose 4.2 percent to 209.4 million euros, or $278.5 million.
Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.
While in 2014, negotiations with Permira and later VTB Capital, part of Russian investment bank VTB Group, never resulted in a sale, market sources expect the deal with Clessidra will finally take place. Upon completion, Clessidra executive vice chairman Francesco Trapani, former chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s watches and jewelry division, will become president of the Cavalli company. Clessidra first looked at the Cavalli books in 2009, but talks broke down over the value of the company. At the time, sources said Cavalli was looking to sell for an amount that would value his firm at 1 billion euros, or $1.25 billion.
The Cavalli group counts 190 monobrand stores, of which 91 are Roberto Cavalli and 54 are Just Cavalli. The remaining units are 28 Cavalli Class and 17 Roberto Cavalli Junior. A directly operated store will open in Houston in September and a unit in Hong Kong will open in June. There are also 12 Cavalli Clubs and Cavalli Caffès around the world.