Emilio Pucci

Rio Ali

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA235

Known as “the Prince of Prints,” Emilio Pucci is renowned for his pioneering use of bold, geometric patterns in a kaleidoscope of bright colors. However it wasn’t only his signature psychedelic prints that earned the designer acclaim; he is known for pushing the boundaries of fabric technology and introducing free-moving, lightweight garments in featherweight silk jersey, particularly his wrinkle-free dresses that became the uniform of the globetrotting glitterati.

Born in 1914 into an aristocratic Italian family, Emilio Pucci, the marchese of Barsento, lived and worked in the Palazzo Pucci in Florence for most of his life. After an extensive education at universities in both Italy and America, Pucci embarked on a career in the Italian air force before becoming a fashion designer. He was also an active politician in the 1960s as a member of the Italian Liberal Party, where he retained his seat for several years.

However, his first foray into fashion came in 1947 as a serendipitous encounter, when skiwear that he had designed for a female friend was shot by a Harper’s Bazaar photographer. Under the international spotlight, offers for Pucci to produce his designs came pouring in. Thus, in 1950 he relinquished his role in the military and set up a fashion house in the resort island of Capri. It was here that he established himself as the go-to designer for the international jet set, offering swimwear (utilizing his knowledge of stretch fabrics), silk scarves, and of course the capri pant as part of his range. With the success of the first store, further boutiques were established in other parts of Italy and beyond.

International recognition arrived in 1954 when Pucci received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for his groundbreaking silk jersey dress. Furthermore, a celebrity following of Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe (who was buried in a Pucci design after her death), garnered the designer much fame in the 1960s.

However the brand fell out of favor for several years, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that Pucci prints made a comeback in the form of stretchy Lycra pantyhose, as seen on Madonna and Paloma Picasso, igniting a multitude of knockoffs. After Pucci’s death in 1992, his daughter Laudomia Pucci took over the family business and formed an alliance with LVMH. While several designers—such as Christian Lacroix (2003–2006), Matthew Williamson (2006–2009), and Peter Dundas (2009–2015)—have taken over the brand’s creative direction, Pucci continues to strive as a family business with Laudomia at the helm and older brother Alessandro Pucci as vice president.

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Buxbaum Gerda , ed. Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century . Munich, London, and New York : Prestel, 1999.

Find in Library Jones Terry , and Avril Mair , eds. Fashion Now! Cologne : Taschen, 2012.

Find in Library Watson Linda. Vogue Twentieth Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade and Designer . London : Carlton, 1999.