By Ana Santi

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve never heard of designer Dusan Paunovic and his womenswear label Dusan. You’ve been missing out, certainly, but the discretion is deliberate, not to mention successful: the brand launched in 1999. That is 17 years of being duped.

"When someone doesn’t find much [about a brand] in a magazine, they think: “how have I never heard of this!” Paunovic cries in mock-surprise. “That’s my marketing, my PR. We work only with very particular magazines, like Gentlewoman and Wallpaper. I think today, people have too much information. When I started, people would wait six months for the clothes, they’d be dreaming about them. Now, you know, at the same moment you see the shows, you see the copies in Zara. So there is no excitement."

Unsurprisingly, Dusan is a brand that doesn’t follow trends. Instead, it has a handwriting that Paunovic has been loyal to from the start. A minimalist clothier, he is a master of tactility, working with luxurious fabrics to create a cool, oversized aesthetic of timeless pieces.

“My collection, it’s a process. It’s not something that is trendy, you know,” says the charismatic designer. Born in Serbia but based in Milan, Paunovic is all Italian in mannerisms. “It’s also a philosophical process of simple, timeless clothing that you can wear for many years. I love to see a customer wearing a jacket I made 15 years ago. It’s not something for just one season.”

Paunovic is uncompromising in his fabric selection too, the backbone of his aesthetic. “Companies always want to save money today, but you can’t with fabrics. You have to buy the best,” he explains. “Fabric is very important in loose clothing, because how it drapes the body is very important.

The mixture of the fabrics, the linen with the silks, the contrast of the raw with the precious to give a casual, nonchalant chic.” Standout pieces for Spring Summer 16 at The Shop at Bluebird are the silk pleated square dress in nude and the silk tie dye full length dress [pictured]. These are underpinned by everyday pieces, whose point of difference lie in Paunovic’s signature silhouettes and tactile fabrics.

I love to see a customer wearing a jacket I made 15 years ago. It's not something for just one season.

Such quality comes at a price. The above-mentioned dresses retail for just over £1,000, while a washed cashmere T-shirt is £570. But the collection’s high prices are part of its USP – and part of the reason why the brand is stocked exclusively by The Shop at Bluebird in the UK. “This store, I know since it opened. My best friend lives just here,” says Paunovic, waving his hand towards the King’s Road from inside The Shop at Bluebird. “But the price point, for many years, was low, never on my level. Then three years ago, around Christmas, I thought: ‘ah, this is upgrading, I should contact them’, you know. And business is changing a lot. Here you have a local customer.

Tourists only want to buy the big names. And you have the support of the sales staff, the relationships – it’s very important.”

Paunovic’s philosophy makes Dusan a perfect fit for The Shop at Bluebird. In a world where luxury is becoming formulaic and cold, where brands are owned by a few corporate powerhouses, The Shop at Bluebird is different. Owned by the Jigsaw Group, it is independent and free-thinking. Part concept store, part cabinet of curiosity, its buyers handpick pieces from renowned fashion designers, fresh talent, art and beauty that they know their customers will love.

Paunovic is unapologetically vocal about the big fashion brands’ prioritisation of profits over product, a strategy that he believes leads to homogenous high streets: “The stores are the same all over the world. I went from Milan to here, to New York, then San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong. I saw the same dress. You don’t know at the end of the day where you are. You cannot just watch the numbers. When you take business people to work in fashion, they don’t understand. Bankers, they don’t understand that it’s a very long time until you make money. We are not dealing with something that is rational. We are dealing with the irrational. Fashion is unpredictable.”

I would never sell. I would prefer to close than sell! It's important that you don't sell to the big companies so that you can preserve. Not everything can be globalised. You need to have those little niches.

Yet Paunovic says he has managed to remain profitable his entire career by being consistent. “I’m now 48. I still need to work for 20 years more,” he says. “Ok, if it’s difficult, you need to look at how you can survive this, how you will stay in business, not how to make a huge profit.

“I would prefer to close than sell! It’s important that you don’t sell to the big companies so that you can preserve. Not everything can be globalised. You need to have those little niches.”