It always seems to be summer at Pucci. Slinky, sexy, vibrant geometric prints that flatter every curve, designed to reveal sun-kissed skin. Yet few realise that Emilio Pucci was never a trained designer, but was in fact an athlete, with a passion for skiing.
How it all started
At just 17, Emilio travelled to Lake Placid as part of the Italian team at the 1932 Olympics. He then received a skiing scholarship for Reed College in Oregon and designed the team’s uniform in bold geometric stretchy fabrics. A fashion empire was born.
But Emilio’s real break came in 1947 – on a ski trip, of course – when he dressed a girlfriend in a pair of slim, sleek ski pants and a parka of his own design. The outfit was unexpectedly caught on camera by Harper’s Bazaar, and, overnight, his artistic use of geometry and stretch fabrics for the sporting world stood out amid the fashions of the 50s.
The look was quickly embraced by every international beauty and first lady – Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Jackie Kennedy all wore Pucci. He swiftly set up his haute couture on the fashionable Isle of Capri and, sporting ethos in mind, created his first swimwear collection in 1949, followed by silk scarves and printed dresses as modern and iconic in style today, and adored by A-listers Liz Hurley, Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham.
Pucci: a modern icon
So how does Pucci thrive today? Laudomia Pucci, Emilio’s daughter who took over the business after his death nearly 20 years ago, says: “Everybody travels, everybody’s jet-setting: there is mass luxury.” To Laudomia, this makes the concept of heritage even more key. “People want to discover the DNA of that world and yearn to buy into that world. Pucci has an elegant cliché – fashionable while classic and timeless. We’ve been part of that dream and now there is more modernity: we have fans on Twitter; we’re doing contemporary furniture with Cappellini; LVMH [Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy bought 67 per cent of Pucci in 2000] has given Pucci the international dimension.” Today, just a piece of Pucci – a scarf or hairband – instantly makes you more fashionably in the know.
The vast stone Palazzo in Via dei Pucci, Florence is still the family seat and where Laudomia has her office. It also houses the Fondazione Emilio Pucci on the ground floor of the Palazzo, which homes an exhibition and research centre. “We have kept it all,” says Laudomia. “Every drawing and sketch is there – and 20,000 scarves! I even have Marilyn Monroe’s tangerine silk knickers!” she laughs.
Emilio Pucci: inspired by life
Word has it Emilio Pucci was flying over the Med looking at the sun on the waves when the Vivara pattern came to him. It was embodied in a print and became the perfume his wife and muse, Christa, wore all her life. Considered the first “beach fragrance”, because of Emilio’s “beachwear” and its sea and sun notes, the original was discontinued in the 80s, but thanks to Laudomia’s passion and the union with the French company LVMH, Vivara was updated by perfumer François Demachy. And this year sees a new fragrance, Miss Pucci, a feminine bouquet of magnolia, Turkish rose, Arabian jasmine and iris. Not Ms, I ask? “No!” laughs Laudomia. “In Italy, all women are Miss.”