October 21, 2013
The life and legacy of Emilio Pucci (1940- 1992)
Emilio Pucci, an Italian nobleman was born in 1914 in Naples, Italy. With his father being wealthy aristocrat, he had the benefit of being raised in a rather luxurious environment. He also joined the Italian Olympic Ski team in 1934 (Grosvenor, “Emilio Pucci: Cotoure with a twist”). During this time Italy was in a war with Ethiopia, also known as the Second Italio-Abyssian War. Trade and exchange regulations left Pucci’s family with little money to help him pay for college (Basye, “The Story behind the styles”). With his advanced skiing reputation, in 1935, he earned a skiing scholarship at the University of Georgia in Atherns, GA, after spending two at Milan University ( FMD, “Emilio Pucci”). While at the University of Georgia, he studied agriculture and began designing skiing sportswear for his team for a short time then transferred to Reed College, a tiny liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. As a student in America, Pucci took on doing casual jobs to earn a living and pay his tuition. As noted by Ali Basye Pucci worked with White Stag, a Portland- based ski-wear company, to design uniforms for Reed’s ski team earning, his first professional clothing commission (Basye, “The Story behind the styles”) Returning to Italy he studied at the University of Florence graduating in 1941 with a doctorate in Political science. During World War II Pucci was a bomber piloting officer in the Italian Air force, but had to return to his family because of health issues that prevented him from flying. As said by Carrie Grosvenor, World War II also resulted in the Pucci family losing most of their fortune (Grosvenor, “Emilio Pucci: Cotoure with a twist”). It was on ski slopes in Switzerland where Harper’s Bazaar photographer, Toni Frissel, photographed Pucci and one his female friends together wearing a streamlined ski ensemble he designed, which was also the first slim stretch ski pant with an elastic stirrup (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”). Carrie Grosvenor adds that after Frissel took the photos, her editor invited him to create pieces for a session on winter fashion, which was added to the December of 1948 issue, recognizing him as a talented sportswear designer, which led him to a commission for Lord &Taylor. With all the publicity that Pucci was getting from the being in Harper’s Magazine along with his summer collection of hats, shirts, and slacks, his apparel became in high demand (FMD, “Emilio Pucci”). He became known as “an innovator of a new, casual chic, ‘resort look’” (FMD, “Emilio Pucci”). His use of dramatic colors and prints on comfortable material appealed to a generation that had only been experiencing gloom from the war, and who needed a shift from the conventional standards of fashion.
After 1945, when World War II ended, there became a cultural transformation in Italy resulting into the more familiar Italy we know today. No longer being restricted by the fascist dictatorship gave artists the opportunity to fully express themselves. As Andrea Nicolia and Paolo Nascimbeni expressed, Italy began a process of creating a more laid back lifestyle while still keeping the same level of moral standards and censorship (Nascimbeni, Nicolia,“Life in Italy 1950’s and 1960’s). New industries developed that combined Italian creativity with the industrial world, sparking an industrial revolution resulting in the rebuilding of its plants and offices that were destroyed because of the war (Nicolia, Nascimbeni, “Life in Italy 1950’s and 1960’s). In these years of economic boom more families became able to afford televisions, cars, and travel to discover other parts of their country. This new era in the Italian society, also known as La Doce Vita (the sweet life), began to attract the attention of foreigners because of the mild climate, laid back lifestyle, talented professionals, and beautiful places to do business or relax.
With the growing success in the improved Italian society, Emilio Pucci’s brand flourished with the opening of his first store in Capri in 1949 along with a workshop in his. He then created his first couture line in 1950 and presented it in his first fashion show at the International Presentation of Italian Fashion in Florence. In 1954, he officially launched the House of Pucci. “By the 1960s his signature look reigned as the ultimate status symbol for the decade” (Bramlett, “Emilio Pucci”). Most of his customers have been wealthy in society. 1960’s Pucci prints were on silk jersey dresses and separates worn by fashionable women all over the world such as Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. His designs were the clothing of choice for those who were constantly traveling (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”). Pucci’s dresses embodied the freedom that many women strove for in the 1960s. Pucci’s designs manifested cheerfulness, experimentation, and youthfulness, all constituent characteristics of the 1960s (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”).
Pucci designed fabrics for the swimwear house Rose Marie Reid in the late 1950s/early 1960s (Bramlett, “Emilio Pucci”). He also designed lingerie and at-home wear made from nylon tricot for Formfit Rogers in 1960. His lingerie was meant to be worn under lightweight Pucci garments—traditional stiff undergarments would ruin the look of the clothes (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”). In the late 1960s he designed the uniforms for the stewardesses of Braniff International Airline (Bramlett, “Emilio Pucci”). In 1968 he began designing menswear for Ermenegildo Zegna (Bramlett, “Emilio Pucci”). His brand also included Emilio Pucci rosé wine, which came from his family vineyard, a line of ceramics, hats, men’s ties and his now famous Capri pants and splashy scarves (Basye, “The Story behind the styles”). In 1966, he launched the famous perfume “ Vivara” Pucci (Grosvenor, “Emilio Pucci: Cotoure with a twist” ). His trademarks were sexy, narrow-legged slacks and comfortable loose blouses, sometimes nicknamed ‘palazzo pyjamas’, handbags, shoes, wallets, sleepwear and more were added to the line (Scott, “Obituary, Emilio Pucci”).
Pucci’s strengths as a designer were as a “colorist and an inventive user of materials” (FMD, “Emilio Pucci”). Pucci himself designed the fabrics his garments were made from. He is known for his fanciful and psychedelic prints, especially in silk knit and in cotton velvet. His classic prints had a combination of “geometric prints served to combine all hues of these vibrant colors, blending primary, secondary and tertiary palettes into prints and using bold black as contrast for dramatic effect” (Diestelkamp, “King of Prints”). In the 1950s, Pucci started designing patterned printed silk scarves that incorporated colors such as ‘Capri’ blue, ‘Emilio’ pink and ‘Pucci’ turquoise. The sunshine of Italy, columns of Greece, flowers of Provence and domed churches of Russia were all inspiration for Pucci’s shape and color patterns. He began incorporating his signature, ‘Emilio’, into his patterns to prevent others from copying his designs (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”). While others created uncomfortable poorly ventilated garments, Emilio Pucci used soft silks and satins that set his designs apart from the designs that were typically seen during the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s. His most popular fabric was a lightweight silk jersey developed in 1953 (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”). Pucci was always searching for good stretch fabrics and was among the first to use Lycra in swimwear (Gero, “Pucci, Emilio”)
As Emelio Pucci’s political career flourished, the ways of fashion were changing in ways that he made Pucci feel “Isolated” (Scott, “Obituary, Emilio Pucci”). For example, in the 1970’s and 1980’s new names such as Armani and Versace arrived in the midst of Italian Fashion being moved from Florence to Milan, where it remains today. The design influences of this time were characterized by the belief of equality of all people, as a range of talents and ideas from all kinds of people began flourish and start a more unified society, better known as being more “pop inspired” (Rupert, “Obituary, Emilio Pucci”).
Emilio Pucci’s legacy in the Industry of fashion has and will always influence the works of later designers, merchandisers, and retailers who aspire to build a platform as high as his. Such designers include Anna Sui, Gianni Versace, Macy’s, and Target to name a few. Before the passing of Emilio Pucci in, as an example of his everlasting legacy, Gianni Versace created a 1960’s Emilio Pucci inspired line that was a replica of Pucci’s designs. His strong influence on later designers, from a larger scale, can also be seen in designs carried at Macy’s and Target. For example, in 2008 Targets Mossimo brand created dresses that were very similar to the designs of Pucci by repeating his “psychedelic prints and vivid colors” as said by Audrey Diestelkamp in her article King of Prints. Macy’s also created a line of sportswear dresses (baby doll and sheath) in 2008 that identified with the designs from Emilio Pucci. The dresses not only had familiar colors, such as those seen at target, but also geometric prints in combination with the bold colors such as turquoise, magenta, cyan, and black to add a dramatic effect (Diestelkamp, “King of Prints”). Both Mossimo and Macy’s designs did not have the best quality of designs as Pucci’s, because their market prices are meant to be affordable even to the unwealthy, but they both succeeded in the movements of garments as they draped and swayed around a woman’s body like garments made by Emilio Pucci. As said by Audrey Diestelkamp “His designs and guiding philosophies translate to the vast American marketplace, making high style accessible to any shopper interested in fashion” which can be proven based on what I have discussed so far.
He was certainly the most important figure in Italian fashion during the 1950s and the 1960s. He never studied fashion. He was the first Italian designer to achieve a considerable commercial success, winning the Neiman Marcus award for “distinguished service” in the field of fashion in 1954 in America (Scott, “Obituary, Emilio Pucci”). In 1964, Vogue described him as the man who had ‘personally invented the look of the moment’ (Scott, “Obituary, Emilio Pucci”). In the mid 1950s, Pucci saved a 300-year-old silk factory from the wrecking ball and restored it to its previous condition. Politically, he stood for Parliament in 1964 on the Liberal list, and served as a deputy in Rome for nine years. He was also active in the city politics of Florence, leading the Liberal group in Palazzo Vecchio. But for all his political achievements he will be remembered the most as someone who brought “verve and playfulness to mid-20th-century clothing” as expressed by Basye in the article The Story behind the styles. Emilio Pucci died in 1992 and his daughter Laudomia Pucci took charge of the company. His career as a fashion designer and government official is inspiring and very influential to designers after him.
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