Emilio Pucci was not only a Florentine fashion designer but a politician born of nobility. Like many Italian fashion designers of the era, Pucci – also known as the Marquis of Barsento - was an accomplished sportsman. His work with sportswear led to a unique understanding of stretch fabrics that he was to use in many of his designs, initially with swimwear.
While his politics leaned to the right, his taste in fashion was considerably less conservative. His garments featured modern geometric prints and bright colours. Pucci’s dresses were favoured by celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Jackie Kennedy. He also designed stylish outfits for Texan airline Braniff International flight attendants which included turtleneck sweaters, crop jackets, culottes and protective outdoor plastic hoods. Later he designed for Australian airline Qantas also.
Pucci opened his first shop in Capri in 1950, and showed his first collection of sportswear in 1951. By 1952, his clothes were available in American department stores Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin and Bergdorf Goodman. In 1962, he launched his first haute couture collection. In Australia, he reached his heights of fame in the mid-Sixties.
Mariuccia Casada* says of Pucci: ‘The energy that Pucci communicated through his bright colours; the originality of his painted, printed or embroidered fabrics; the technical innovations he applied to materials…made him the perfect spokesman for his time.’
*Emilio Pucci, Mariuccia Casada, Thames and Hudson, 1998.
Mary Lipshut on Emilio Pucci
‘In the Seventies, when you bought from Pucci you needed to go to the showroom in his family palace in Florence, so it was quite an experience. And he insisted you bought from both his past and present collections, so we ended up with a very interesting spread of outfits.
‘Most are exceptional – his use of pattern and colour is masterly. But I did like some collections more than others.
‘When my husband and I were on our way home from Europe, having just left Italy, we stopped in Bali for a holiday. While we were there we met a lovely Italian woman. I told her we’d just come from Florence where we’d seen many fashion shows. She seemed intrigued and asked who’d opened the shows. I replied Pucci had but that I wasn’t impressed – he’d shown girls wearing casual tops and jeans, made in Hong Kong, nothing I liked. She listened and then said next time I was in Florence I should look her up. She handed me her card which had the address Pucci Palace – she was his niece! I never did see her again but I did keep buying Pucci because so many of the garments are simply wonderful.’