How Emilio Pucci’s image director is bringing the house’s storied archive to the millennial set.
Laudomia Pucci brings her family heritage into the light.
LAUDOMIA PUCCI is sipping her first coffee of the day in her family’s 600-year-old palace, a stone’s throw from Michelangelo’s David and the Duomo, with its sublime dome by Filippo Brunelleschi.“italy can be very warm at this time of year, but it’s a beautiful morning,” she says.
As far as Renaissance romance goes, it doesn’t get much more beautiful than Florence, a city so ravishing it spawned Stendhal syndrome, a psychosomatic disorder that causes a racing heart, fainting and even hallucinations when a person is exposed to great art. But as tourists ooh and ahh while juggling guide books and gelato in the Piazza del Duomo nearby, for Laudomia Pucci it’s business as usual inside the Pucci palazzo, which has been home to her family for centuries, and, for the past 70 years, to the eponymous brand founded by her father, Emilio Pucci, in 1947.
“I’ve always seen this space as a mixture of a home, because my family always lived here, and a place of work, because of my father’s activity, which then became mine,” says the Pucci image director.“later, when my own children were growing up, they would come into my office, which goes back to the era of the Renaissance, when children would work with their parents, because that’s the Italian way.”
He may have been Italian, but Emilio saw a global opportunity for glamour when he founded Pucci with a single streamlined ski outfit, which prompted the idea for a brand after it was photographed on the slopes of Switzerland for Harper’s BAZAAR. An avid skier and athlete who travelled between his family’s Florentine palazzo, the mountains of Switzerland and the resort island of Capri, Pucci the man embodied the postwar jet-set glamour that captivated a new generation of modern, active women whom he went on to dress in resort clothing defined by fluid silhouettes and boldly patterned prints.
“It’s la dolce vita and an Italian postcard lifestyle, but there is a sense of worldliness and being open to international inspirations because my father loved travelling and different cultures,” Laudomia says. (Emilio had a particular passion for Australia: in 1974 he created uniforms for Qantas, and a scarf with a print of Sydney Opera House). Laudomia joined the family business when she graduated from university in Rome, but as it was becoming known around the world for its intoxicating mix of colour and print, she left and went to Paris to work for Hubert de Givenchy.“the truth is my father was very talented, but he was also very demanding,” Laudomia says.“i was very young and it wasn’t easy, so after three and a half years I was curious to see something else.”
She returned in 1989 and took over running the company at just 28 years old after her father’s death in 1992. “I had no choice; I was thrown in and I just had to start swimming,” she says. While she swam with gentle strokes initially, Laudomia soon recruited a series of designers — most recently Peter Dundas and Massimo Giorgetti — to reinvigorate the company following its acquisition by the LVMH group in 2000.“You have to play the music of your moment; you cannot be nostalgic or do re-editions of what the previous generation has done,” she says.“you must be able to take your history and storytelling and bring it to new consumers, new generations and new markets.”
Talk to any big company these days and they’ll tell you the quickest way to freshen things up is to bring in the millennials, and Pucci is no exception. “I often say that companies when they get older are a little bit like vampires: they are always looking for fresh blood,” Laudomia says with a laugh. “But it’s absolutely true, and I’m fascinated with the young.”
So much so that she recruited fashion students from Central Saint Martins in London and Florence’s Polimoda to help create a ‘heritage hub’ within Palazzo Pucci, which opened in June during the Pitti Uomo menswear fair. Dedicated to preserving the brand’s history while presenting it in a contemporary manner, the hub is also designed as an incubator for young talents, who for its opening produced an exhibition of garments drawn from the archive within a space remodelled by architect Piero Lissoni, who also created a digital library with a video wall.the students rifled through the archives with fresh eyes, pulling out pieces as diverse as a pearl bikini and 1960s turbans to clothe a menagerie of dressmaker’s dummies, one of which is clad entirely in spiky raffia, constructed by Italian mannequin company Bonaveri in heights ranging from 20 centimetres to six metres.when the exhibition Bonaveri, A Fan of Pucci opened, they had been positioned throughout the palazzo, in its salons, on the stairs and across the courtyard, to bring energy and playfulness to the historical building and to the archives themselves. “When you have a very big and important archive, people can find it daunting and heavy, so I wanted to bring it alive with a fresh perspective and unusual interpretations,” Laudomia says.
She applied a similar approach to melding past and future seven years earlier, when she oversaw the tandem opening of a private museum and a student talent centre at Villa di Granaiolo, another Renaissanceera residence owned by the Pucci family, this one 40 kilometres from Florence, outside the village of Castelfiorentino. Fashion students from around the world have since visited to work on creative projects there, the latest of which will launch on October 12, along with another at Palazzo Pucci, as part of the global LVMH event Les Journées Particulières. Founded in 2011, the event is essentially a global open weekend for the public to discover 76 places on four continents where LVMH artisans, designers and other creatives work, along with the heritage of 56 maisons. Palazzo Pucci will run tours of the company’s archives, explaining how the brand’s history is used to nurture inspiration and the company culture today, while Villa di Granaiolo will host an exhibition and print design and patternmaking workshops where international students will work with Pucci’s in-house experts as part of the three-day event. “There is a sense of continuity in Pucci that clients are happy to find, but when you have a brand DNA that is so strong, you are able to play with it and evolve it,” Laudomia says.“you can’t refresh and modernise or keep the company attractive if you don’t have talent.”
Emilio Pucci is stocked at Harrolds, harrolds.com.au. For more information on Les Journées Particulières, visit lvmh.com.
“You have to play the music of your moment; you cannot be nostalgic or do re-editions of what the previous generation has done.” – LAUDOMIA PUCCI
A look from Emilio Pucci pre-fall 2018 (and above). Inset, from top: a 1974 Emilio Pucci scarf for Qantas; a foulard from A/W 2018. Far right: Laudomia Pucci.
Mannequins in archival Emilio Pucci displayed in Palazzo Pucci’s Sala Bianca, part of Bonaveri, A Fan of Pucci.
All looks: Emilio Pucci A/W 2018.