In 1953, Emilio Pucci worked with Legler to produce artificial and synthetic velvets for sports pants. With the Vallesusa cotton mill he came up with a printed wally pliss. The following year he elaborated a new jersey in the finest silk organza, made by Mabu in Solbiate and Boselli in Como for the production of crease-resistant garments that fold down to practically nothing. In 1960, he patented Emilioform, a stretch fabric in helanca and silk shantung. In 1956, the photographer Elsa Haertter took photos of Emilio Pucci bathing costumes around Piazza Armerina, among the mosaics depicting a group of girls from ancient Rome in underwear similar to modern bikinis.
Geometrics for the first line of foulards featured a hand-drawn cartographic map of the Island of Capri. As a pilot, he used to fly low, which gave him a privileged viewpoint, able to see all the details in the lay of the land, its promontories, water courses and Mediterranean colors. These observations were then carried over into a pattern on headsquares: he organized the prints in such a way that they created a sensation of movement on articles destined to stay still, such as cushions, chairs or rugs and he autographed them. He established dialogue between the body that wore a Pucci dress and home interiors decorated with items in the same design. His woolen rugs in 1969 were ‘paintings in wool’, as he called them, an uninterrupted extension of his dresses —the rugs, later distributed in New York by Harmony Carpets, are today bought and sold through the Sotheby’s and Christie’s chains of auction houses.
In 1950, he opened his first boutique on Capri. He was a friend of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, who introduced him onto the international market at a time when Italy was still associated with an image of clichés, not to mention fascism. For modern women on the rungs of the social ladder, Pucci offered an alternative to apparel by Parisian tailors, a combination of comfort and creative design. From 12 to 14 February, in the run up to the Paris fashion week, the first Italian fashion show was held at Giorgini’s house. Attended by sector operators it was the forerunner of Pitti and prêt-à-porter. In 1954, Emilio Pucci won the Neiman-Marcus Award, which three years later went to a friend of his, Coco Chanel. Sophia Loren wore Pucci, and Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were also photographed in his clothes. The theme of aviation returned in his collaboration with Braniff International Airways, a Texan airline in vogue in the sixties, for which Pucci designed the crew’s uniforms. When called on by the German porcelain manufacturers Rosenthal, his approach was the same: he used a scarf from the archives to rest across the plates, vases and cups in porcelain in order to develop a new aesthetic relationship with the material. White Stag and Lord & Taylor wanted his clothes. Throughout the fifties and sixties, Emilio Pucci devoted his energy to the international market without however neglecting his efforts in his home country. On the side, he began a political career that was to see him cover several roles with the Florentine City Council until 1990. A few unsuccessful ventures during the following decades, such as the launch of high-end tailoring and a menswear line, as well as the fragrance Vivara, did not harm esteem for this designer: the engineers at NASA commissioned him to design the emblem of the Apollo 15 mission. He came up with three stylized birds to represent the three crew members who flew over the surface of the moon.
Biographical notes. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the Pucci family came to terms with modernity in order to maintain their Ancien Regime lifestyle, giving away land and works of art (including The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian by Pollaiolo and three paintings by Botticelli, today conserved at the National Gallery in London and the Prado Museum in Madrid). Emilio Pucci, Marquis of Barsento, was born on 20 November 1914, noble on the side of his father, Orazio, the family Pucci was first mentioned in the thirteenth century, with enrolment in the Guild of Woodcarvers of Antonio, an architect who worked on the Loggia della Signoria in Florence, and bourgeois on his mother’s side, Augusta Pavoncelli from a family of merchants in Puglia who prospered and amassed property in Naples. Young Emilio received an aristocratic education. A keen skier, he was selected in 1934 for the Italian national team and took part in the 1936 winter Olympics. He obtained a scholarship and moved to Oregon in the United States, where he made his first clothes. With a flair for painting, he designed the uniforms for his skiing team. Polutropos, with a multitude of talents, is an epic epithet that perfectly describes the character of Emilio Pucci. Passionate and with a yearning for change, he boarded an old ship and traveled the world, visiting China, Japan and Malaysia. Back in Florence, he graduated in political sciences and, at the same time, followed his other hobby, aviation. First as a cadet pilot for the Italian Royal Air Force, then as a reserve officer. War broke out and Pucci followed its developments, receiving two silver medals and a cross for military valor for services in the field. He had an affair with Edda Mussolini, wife of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Foreign Minister then Ambassador to the Holy See. When, on 25 July 1943, the session of the Grand Council ousted the Fascist regime, Ciano was one of the 19 party officials declared traitors. Edda attempted in vain to save him from the firing squad, exchanging his diaries with the Germans.
Pucci obtained a three-month sick leave due to his precarious health and came back to Florence. In a Fiat Topolino his father managed to find him, he drove to Edda and helped her flee to Switzerland. He was arrested on 10 January 1944 and taken to San Vittore prison in Milan. After a week of interrogation and torture that left him badly bruised, his skull fractured in two places and a perforated eardrum. Set free, on the 19th he too escaped to Switzerland, where he remained until 1946. Having taken stock of his family’s ruinous finances, he looked for a job and ended up in charge of the ski resort in Sestriere in Piedmont thanks to his friendship with the Agnelli family. His talent was noted in Zermatt, Switzerland, where he moved after World War Two and began his career as a designer. His total approach to design anticipated the phenomenon of branding: diversification of his business thanks to external collaboration. The American photographer Tom Frissel, who in that period had immortalized Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, took photos of his sports tracksuits for women and published them in Harper’s Bazaar – An Italian skier designs, read the title on the pages of the December 1948 issue. He passed away on 29 November 1992, and a necrology in the British daily The Independent read as follows: ‘the first man in his family to work for a thousand years .
Unexpected Pucci, Rizzoli New York 2019.