RENAISSANCE MAN EMILIO PUCCI
The ‘Prince of Prints’ presided over an ancestral home that has remained as vibrant as his famous swirling patterns, writes Jason Mowen.
During a trip to New York in 1999, I bought my now-cherished copy of the Christie’s catalogue The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe, a monumental book that gave unusually intimate insight into the actress’s life, as told through the story of her personal possessions. Alongside annotated film scripts, Ferragamo stilettos and ever-immortalised sequined frocks, one of the most intriguing aspects of the sale was Monroe’s extensive collection of one particular designer — her wardrobe of choice when she was not, so to speak, being ‘ Marilyn’. The designer was none other than Emilio Pucci, whose silk jersey shift dresses, which hinted at the coming sexual revolution, the actress collected in multiple, sherbet-like hues. If Monroe was the quintessential modern woman before her time, then Pucci was the designer for the modern woman, granting her unprecedented freedom of movement in his pioneering of luxurious, almost weightless stretch fabrics. Born into one of Florence’s oldest noble families in 1914, the Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento became known as the ‘Prince of Prints’, a play on his aristocratic heritage as well as his signature swirling patterns that captured, and even informed, the psychedelic spirit of the 1960s.
The Pucci story, however, goes back to the early days of the Renaissance, and Emilio was certainly a Renaissance man. He was multilingual, American-educated, an Olympic skier — his first designs were in fact ski outfits — and an air force pilot. After WWII, he established his atelier in the Palazzo Pucci in Florence, a grand, Patrician pile his family had occupied since 1480. ››