A Conversation with Dusan Paunovic
The Milan-based designer, in town this week to make his L.A. debut at Des Kohan, calls himself "anti-celebrity." Welcome to town.
Don't ask Serbian-born, Milan-based designer Dusan Paunovic who wears his clothes. He doesn't care.
"I'm not in the mood at all for celebrity," the minimalist clothier told THR, fresh off the plane from Milan to make his debut showing at L.A. boutique Des Kohan (671 S. Cloverdale Ave., L.A.). Although he started his line of masterfully draped, innovatively tailored womenswear — simply dubbed Dusan — back in 1999, he is by no means a household name. It's a fact that he happens to be totally cool with.
"For years, I was the best-kept secret in Milan," he said. "And that is my marketing."
Kohan has a penchant for embracing designers who hover just under the radar, but shouldn't. An example is Paris-based Damir Doma, who despite being worn by the likes of Kanye West and Rihanna and being mentioned in an A$AP Rocky song, would likely earn a quizzical look if mentioned to even your most shopping-obsessed girlfriend. And this week, the retailer — also a former Prada trend forecaster — was at it again, inviting Puanovic to her Miracle Mile shop to introduce his voluminous quilted two-piece suits, chocolate leather gaucho trousers and reformed sleeveless trench coats that double as dresses, to her well-heeled clientele (Balenciaga U.S. brand consultant Katherine Ross and Marisa Tomei among them). With a decidedly cool-girl vibe that errs on androgynous but finds feminine movement in fluid chiffons, satins, silks and cashmeres, we could easily imagine Rooney Mara, Carey Mulligan and Diane Kruger becoming steadfast fans. If only Paunovic wanted them to be.
We sat down with the minimalist master to delve into his hush-hush marketing strategy, his affinity for forgetting film names and why husbands should never shop with their wives. And, of course, celebrities. This is L.A., after all.
The Hollywood Reporter: So no marketing? Really?
Paunovic: No. Like the clothes, nothing is loud, everything is super understated. Everything is super quiet. Under the snow [laughs]. Some people say it's not the right way. What is very important in my business is that everything is a very personal approach — every client, every store, I'm working with so personally. But for me it’s the right way. It’s my way.
THR: But you show your collections at Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks. That's marketing. And exciting.
Paunovic: Yeah, very exciting [wryly smiles and gives a little eye roll]. I’m kidding. It’s exciting.
THR: We're pretty jaded, too. Though we still fondly remember our first fashion week.
Paunovic: You follow fashion week in New York and L.A.?
THR: Yes, but L.A. was canceled. It wasn’t really about the clothes anyway — more about who could get Paris Hilton to their runway.
Paunovic: I’m anti-celebrity driven. Maybe it’s not right for L.A., because here that is everything.
HUSTLE AND FLOW: Dusan's spring 2013 sleeveless linen trench coat, $1,488; Samurai print pant, $1,038; silk Elinashi shirt, $778 and linen draped jacket, $1,288. deskohan.com. At bottom, looks from Dusan's fall/winter 2013 collection.
THR: So you consciously don’t want celebrities to wear your clothes?
Paunovic: Yes. I always like to do what no one is doing. You think that it’s important who is wearing it, but who cares. I love films. But I don’t ever even know the names of them. I love, love films. But that doesn’t mean I want them to come into my brain.
THR: Interesting that you eschew celebrity and movies in your business, because there seems to be such a formula in fashion now in regard to who is wearing what.
Paunovic: At the end of the day, who cares? Who can remember what somebody wears? [Brands] give [clothes] for free, [celebrities] wear it once. I prefer, you know, a lot of very elegant, very chic, very understated people who are not celebrities. Like my usual clientele is an art gallerist or decorators or designers or architects. But always independent women. Which I also like very much. That is very important — when a woman is buying clothing for herself. Not the husband. That’s the nightmare, when the husband starts buying. When [wives] come in the store, they ask [their husbands], “Oh, do you like this?” They’re not even watching. You can ask a stylist what they are going through when a husband starts to get mixed up in the clothing.
THR: [Laughing] Okay, so no husbands and no celebrities. Check. What about old movie stars? They can be pretty inspiring, no?
Paunovic: No. I don’t like to have references to films. It just comes.
THR: So I suppose asking you if you pay attention to the red carpet would be out of the question?
Paunovic: [Smiling wryly] I never saw in my life. I’m sleeping at that time. I don’t have any idea.