“When I think of Ungaro, I think of the amazing, glamorous, flamboyant woman in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Fausto Puglisi told The Window. “Times are changing, and we don’t necessarily have that customer anymore, but what I wanted to do was start by respecting the DNA of the maison and of Mr. Ungaro himself. That DNA is very similar to what I like to do—that love of color, femininity, beauty, sexiness—but I wanted to translate it in a modern way.”

ungaro-collage1If he makes it sound simple, it isn’t. Italian designer Puglisi, who was tapped to helm the iconic house of Ungaro a year ago, had his work cut out for him—after a substantial stretch of time where the identity of the house was in flux, Puglisi had to prove that he was the man for the job.

After making a name for himself with his own collection of women’s ready to wear that fearlessly embraced color, dramatic silhouettes and piled-on embellishment (an aesthetic that synced fabulously well with street style star and early Fausto champion Anna Dello Russo, as well as Madonna, MIA and Nicki Minaj, who he dressed for their 2012 Super Bowl halftime show), he dove into the Ungaro archives to set about transforming the house for women of today.

“I saw in the archives a lot of prints—Ungaro was the king of polka dots!” he said. You’ll see those dots in the Spring 2014 collection. “Another obsession of his was the ruffles. I don’t like to use ruffles in that wedding cake dress way, so it was a challenge to translate the ruffles in a modern way.” His take? A single ruffle that may run the length of a dress, for an effect that’s more graphic stripe than “wedding cake” flounce.

But while he’s committed to honoring and reviving the Ungaro codes, he’s his own designer. “For me, the past is the best resource—I love the history of fashion and costume, from Marie Antoinette in Versailles to the Roman Empire to my heroes, Roy Halston or Gianni Versace or Yves Saint Laurent,” he said. “But I want to be very independent. I have my own identity.”

He gives that same independence and freedom of choice to the women around him—an approach that will surely garner him a new generation of fans in addition to seasoned Ungaro devotees. “A modern woman doesn’t need a designer to tell her what to wear and what not to wear,” he said. “My challenge is to make what I like, and she can decide.”

Luckily, we like what he likes. “Ungaro used to believe in desire, and I believe in desire,” he said. Speaking of desire: Spring shopping, anyone?