He is prone to fits of laughter, cracking jokes and has a quirky, sometimes dark, sense of humor. He has such a sunny disposition that it is hard to imagine him ever having a bad day and this positive attitude is often reflected in his fashion. This is a man who hand an entire collection inspired by the arcade game PacMan, paired a spider patterned top with a handbag in the shape of a stuffed toy triceratops and showed dresses covered in a Bambi print, albeit ones with their heads cut off and gushing blood (remember that dark sense of humor).
But how would that tongue in cheek chic translate to a venerable Parisienne fashion how like Ungaro; a brand famous for its body-skimming silhouettes and brightly colored floral cocktail dresses?
The first Ungaro collection designed by Deacon was shown in a presentation setting and was envisioned by the designer as a palette cleanser for the troubled brand. “I wanted to get rid of all the madness that had been going on over the last couple of years, to set a new tone from which we can build from,” says the designer.
The pretty collection was filled with lace and feather covered cocktail dresses in hot hues. But after talking to buyers and customers the designer discovered that they were looking for a bit more Deacon in their Ungaro outfits. “The brand lost so many points of sales over the last five years,” states the designer. “The last time it was really popular was in the early 90s, so it was about finding out what is relevant to customers and women now. I think there is a danger of getting bogged down in too much nostalgia.”
With this in mind Deacon’s fall/winter Ungaro collection, inspired by National Geographic programs the designer was watching while designing his sophomore outing, had a much edgier feel with black leather and lace on body-con cut clothing. But all that dark was tempered by the designer’s lighthearted embellishments that saw a wolf embroidered on a jersey top or an owl take shape out of copper beading on a tulle covered dress.
“I think you can bring a lightness and a playfulness into a collection if it is done in a beautiful and well worked manner,” says Deacon who turned to the famous French embroidery house Lesage to bring to life his beaded creatures. “I osculate, in my mind, between the things that are kind of really serious and the playful bits,” confides the designer. “The two opposites really attract me. I think when fashion is nothing but totally serious it just gets a bit boring. But at the same time I make sure that it is never too jokey or taking the piss out of people,” continues Deacon.
One way that the designer, who sees Elsa Schiaparelli as a kindred sprit, is trying to meld his aesthetic with that of the Ungaro brand is through the company’s long history of experimenting with prints. “I think as a print house it is should be pushing that technological aspect forward a bit, pushing the bounders of print design and being more directional. It will be a good way to develop a new language for the brand,” states Deacon, laying out his plans for the future.
Already on the fall/winter runway the use of jewel hued oversized prints of feathers or liquid smoke patters drifting across a dress was a strong indication of the path Deacon wants to take the label. And paired with his distinctive embellishments like hawk talons knitted into the shoulders of a nubby sweater or stitched up leather pants and the designer is clearly bringing a new perspective to the brand.
For Deacon, who says he would love to someday work on a project with NASA, the most important thing is to always have fun while he is working. Inspired by his travels throughout the world and his love of nature Deacon is a bit of a free spirit.
His design process is particularly collaborative and he encourages his staff, at both Emanuel Ungaro and his own label, to speak up and share their opinions. “I don’t think that for a design to be relevant it has to be torturous. It is designing clothing after all, its not brand surgery,” he says with a laugh.