Book Review “Unexpected Pucci: Interiors, Furniture, Ceramics & Art Pieces”

Unexpected Pucci
Published By Rizzoli New York
All photos Rizzoli New York

Like everything else nowadays, fashion can get heavy and weighty. There’s a tendency on the part of designers and journalists, to overthink, overanalyze, over-intellectualize and take a cerebral and cynical approach to fashion design. While this is germane at times, let’s face it, there are just some things that are best left alone and simply enjoyed. Pucci, with its swirling dazzling prints, is one of these things.

Emilio Pucci

The house was established in 1947 by Emilio Pucci, Marquis, sportsman, military pilot, and politician. It is one of Italy’s most storied jet-set brands of the Sixties and is now part of the French Louis Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy Group who acquired 67% of the label in 2000. Various designers have worked for the Italian fashion house, from Christian Lacroix, Stephan Janson and Julio Espada to Peter Dundas. There is currently no creative director at the helm.

Veruschka is posed before Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, Africa
wearing a loose Pucci barracan in printed silk jersey

A new book, “Unexpected Pucci,” published by Rizzoli New York, recounts the journey and amazing versatility of Emilio Pucci beyond fashion. But even though fashion may not be the focal point, it is an integral part of the Pucci universe.

Some of the most iconic fashion images are included in the book which was introduced at Palazzo Pucci on June 12 during Pitti Uomo. For the occasion, an installation was created featuring pieces described in the book set in a labyrinth inspired by the graphic Torre print. It will be available in the U.S. and Europe beginning in September retailing at $90.

Just about the only thing that is not “unexpected” about “Unexpected Pucci,” is that it is a visual bonanza; a joyful explosion of color and exuberant pattern. Glorious gardens, stately statues, and imposing rooms are used as backdrops and the majestic Palazzo Pucci in Florence, which has recently undergone a major restoration, is a focal point throughout. If you are an Italophile who loves art, fashion, and interior design like myself, this book is a must-read.

Laudomia Pucci

“Unexpected Pucci” was edited by Laudomia Pucci. The daughter of the late designer took over as Vice President and Image Director of the maison upon her father’s death in 1992. The texts are written by Angelo Flaccavento, Piero Lissoni and Laudomia Pucci.

The introduction was written by Suzy Menkes. Laudomia worked on the book for one year, and the experience clearly left a mark as she saw all these key pieces together. “Emilio Pucci was there before the others, as usual,” she acknowledged.

Skateboards featuring Emilio Pucci prints designed in collaboration with ECAL Lausanne, 2015

Marchese Emilio Pucci was undeniably one of the greatest pioneers of Italian fashion and one of the fashion world’s forerunners in the field of designer diversification whether it was rugs, handbags, bedding, towels, packaging, lithographs, uniforms, or fragrances. Emilio designed sportswear, skiwear, undergarments, knitwear, swimwear, and accessories. He manufactured ceramics and perfume and branched into men’s fashion design. The colorful, less formal uniforms he created for Braniff Airways flight attendants were the first of their kind.

Pucci did product diversification in his own aristocratic way; being more interested in creation than making tons of money. He personally designed or carefully oversaw every product that carried his prestigious Emilio signature. Emilio built a world of pattern after pattern by following his creative urges. He took the ordinary and made it extraordinary. “Pucci prints make everyday objects seem magical,” said Angelo Flaccavento. Indeed, there was a zing of Pucci and a burst of energy to everything he touched. And it all began with a scarf.

Emilio’s first scarf featured a hand-drawn map of Capri, his favorite island. Most of his new work began as a scarf design which he then wrapped around his bold creations. The foulard — a staple in Pucci’s collections — was a “logical and organic” cornerstone, said Laudomia Pucci, but “how unexpected was it to wrap up the Florence Battistero [baptistery]” with Emilio Pucci’s 1957 Battistero foulard for an art installation in 2014.

Cushions covered with Pucci’s iconic Vivara print

The Vivara print inspired by the crescent-shaped Island of Ischia was introduced in 1963 with an eponymous collection and the very first Pucci fragrance collection. It was more than just a print. It was emblematic of the Pucci lifestyle.

The 224-page tome unfolds the artistic dimension of the brand, gathering its most creative projects. It retraces Pucci’s journey from Mediterranean colors, and silk scarves to groundbreaking partnerships with international leaders in art and design from the 1960’s to the present. The different chapters cover rugs, porcelain, art, and artistic collaborations.

Madame Kartell and Pucci collaboration

Among the inspired collaborations illustrated in the book are the “Madame” chair designed by Philippe Starck with Florentine brand Kartell in 2014. For the well-known French creator and designer, it embodied the idea of “freedom”; freedom to be different and freedom to create a “true designer object” by taking the best of both worlds and merging them.

Pucci and Rosenthal collaboration

Other successful partnerships are represented by the “Cities of the World” Matteo Thun coffee cups for Illy; the Cappellini swivel armchair Rive Droite designed by Patrick Norguet and upholstered in catchy and colorful Pucci patterns; and collectible vases with Rosenthal.

Pucci and a Bisazza Limited Edition Design

Working with Bisazza (the well-known mosaic company), Emilio Pucci transformed prints into decorative panels for interiors and swimming pools. He also collaborated on unique seating designs such as the Poolside collection by Piero Lissoni.

Pucci Rug

The mosaics, porcelains and the upholstery for furnishings are outstanding Pucci extensions, but the rugs truly steal the show. By taking Pucci patterns and blowing them up to giant proportions, the rugs were made into something one can literally walk on.

The archival motifs are picturesquely named Ovals, Hawaii, Occhi [Eyes], Garden, Lamborghini, and Menelik, to name a few. They were exhibited in 1970 at the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Buenos Aires, and are now available as bespoke pieces at the Heritage Hub within Palazzo Pucci.

The final chapter in the book chronicles Pucci’s collaborations and partnerships with leading homeware and interior design brands. Sheets and towels were never considered to be a la mode until Emilio partnered with American SpringMaid in 1967. The demand for printed terrycloth resulted in an explosion of beachwear and yachting capes.

Emilio’s brilliantly colored, free-moving sportswear was first presented as a complete collection in 1950. It was enthusiastically received, and these designs look modern to this day, owing to their simplicity.

Pucci became best known for tight, shantung Capri pants and for his most widely copied creations: the vividly printed silk jersey dresses and blouses. Emilio’s distinctive and exuberant prints were the universal element fashion fans treasured from his start in the late ’40s in Italy to the upscale brand today headquartered in the magnificent Palazzo Pucci in Florence.

During the 1960s, Pucci’s instantly recognizable prints were worn by such fashionable women as Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn loved Pucci so much, she was buried in a green Pucci dress. I was a child of the ’60s with a beautiful and chic mother who loved Pucci, so naturally, I became enamored of the famed label as well.

It was not until the 80’s that I began to collect with a vengeance. At that time, I was a senior market editor of Harper’s Bazaar, and a Pucci revival was underway. For the record, I prefer the vintage pieces over the current offerings. They are far more memorable and distinctive, stains and all.

When Bill Cunningham ran his 18 picture column on me for the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times, “The Color of Money (In the Bank),” February 11, 2001, almost half the pieces were vintage Pucci.

Marilyn Kirschner featured in More Magazine

More Magazine included me in a style profile in September 2003. I was the ‘Vintage Fan,’ and they photographed me wearing a geometrically patterned silk jersey Pucci dress I purchased in the late ’60s. I still fit into it, and it makes me smile whenever I see it. It’s better than Prozac!

This dress is part of a rather enviable collection amassed through the years. Even though these clothes are not part of my daily uniform, they instantly transport me to another time and place. A little escapism is not a bad thing, especially these days.

Many years ago, I was in the elevator of my apartment building with an elderly woman. She asked if I was wearing Pucci and when I said, yes, she lamented that she had given all of hers away. Then, with a wicked twinkle in her eye, she sighed, “We had so much fun in those clothes.” Boy, did we ever!

“Gaiety is one of the most important elements I brought to fashion. I brought it through color”- Emilio Pucci.

Marilyn Kirschner
Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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