Pucci: Millennials Let Loose With The Heritage
Her legs are so long and slim that this mighty mannequin rises high above the people passing through the courtyard below. But tall or small, there’s no missing the graphic pattern – in pink, black and white – set at an angle on the body. It could only be Emilio Pucci!
Eagerly opening storage cupboards that hold archive pieces starting from 1951 and displaying mannequins wearing mad hats and even wilder clothes, Laudomia Pucci, daughter of the founder, has discovered a fun and colourful way to keep the heritage alive.
“It’s a world of creativity that I have pulled out today. This is one of the few companies where past, present, and the potential future fuse together,” Laudomia says. “And if you don’t refer to the clothes in the archive, as I’m doing here with the young ones, it ends up being a very poor interpretation.”
The “young ones” – a team of helpers, including her daughter Larrissa – are refreshing the colourful Pucci image. The team includes students from Polimoda, the Florentine fashion and business school, and London’s Central Saint Martins. These millennials are encouraged to come with fresh eyes to the hand-printed fabrics, fusing nylon and silk, from the 1950s, when the stylish Italian aristocrat Emilio Pucci captured the moment of social change at the beginning of the “Jet Set” travel era and its chic-casual dress code.
“To do those things today, you have to give them a twist and a dose of fashion creativity. If not, the brand becomes like Uniqlo or whoever does fantastic things for very cheap prices,” Laudomia explains. “So today you have very tough competition, while in those early days, my father was the only one. It’s not enough today to just do a pant in a patterned fabric: You have to put it in context and make it cool – that is a fashion twist.”
There is another supporter of Pucci’s renaissance, which is reflected in that giant mannequin and so many others in the grand, historic building of the Palazzo Pucci in the heart of Florence. Bonaveri, an Italian brand devoted to manufacturing mannequins, was tasked with exploring the historic codes of Pucci through their artistic touch, creative soul, savoir-faire and irony.
The exhibition at Palazzo Pucci, “Bonaveri – A Fan of Pucci” closes on Friday. But there is a much deeper meaning behind this explosion of colour and print. Where can, or will, LVMH, the fashion Goliath that owns Pucci, take the historic brand from here? After a string of designers – of whom Laudomia names Christian Lacroix as her favourite – Pucci is currently going nowhere, especially in comparison to Gucci, which is owned by Kering. Now known for glamorous prints, under Creative Director Alessandro Michele, that brand is having a worldwide Renaissance that includes a museum-come-store-come-restaurant in the heart of Florence.
Sidney Toledano, the Chairman and CEO of LVMH with a glowing history as Christian Dior’s former Chief Executive, is now in charge of the company’s less monolithic brands. And here he is in Florence – eating one of those juicy, hand-made, only-in-Italy ice creams – pondering the meaning of “heritage”.
“You have to transform something every day,” Toledano says, en route to Spain to look at another smaller LVMH brand, Loewe. The executive has also been the man with the plan to shift Givenchy back towards haute couture – a strategy that led to Meghan Markle wearing the now-famous wedding dress.
“The role of the creative person is to learn what they should take from history and how to talk to the new consumer – to Generation Z,” Toledano continues. “What you have to get is what is up-to-date, so we have to transform and explain it to them. That is important, you cannot ignore it – that would be stupid, because it’s so important.”
“But how to transform? It is something that you see in the roots and how they can develop into new flowers,” Toledano says. “Somebody has to put forward something from the heritage to make it speak in a way that is understood immediately. It is about how we twist it to transform it and keep the heritage, which is important to a brand, whether it is Pucci or Givenchy.”
There must be something frustrating for both Laudomia and Sidney Toledano to see in a week when Pitti Uomo menswear dominates the city of Florence, that revitalising Pucci is still not on-the-go.
The exhibition has everything, and the archive pieces stun with their imagination, colour, and quality. When Laudomia opens an elegant wooden closet, a tumble of hand-painted silks emerge; she walks visitors through rooms alive with the patterns of beach robes and invites them to sit on chairs from the 1960s that are pulsing with pattern.
“It’s a whole world of creativity that we have pulled out to show today,” she says. Looking at these patterns from a pre-digital age, including new versions that are stretched across mannequins in the Bonaveri workrooms laid out on the ground floor, there is still not enough preparation for what appears at the top of the palazzo’s noble staircase.
POW! WOW! First, crazy, colourful feathered hats worn rakishly on the marble statues of historic figures. Then those hats worn rakishly on colourful mannequins.
Crazy enough? Oh, no! Other rooms have extraordinary creations inspired by Botticelli’s classic painting, “The Birth of Venus”, or have animalistic creations that seem more like animated avatars than fashion folk.
The inspirational effects born from a new generation of Pucci enthusiasts look like the brand’s new way to go. All they have to do is to turn madcap, modern ideas into a collection – and a buck.