Pucci prints are synonymous with summer joie de vivre …
You may have noticed brightly coloured graphic prints are trending: Sara Battaglia, River Island, Zara and Coperni have all produced iterations on palazzo pants, bikinis and silky blouses, easy to pack for holiday dressing. To discerning eyes, the patterns are similar to those created by Emilio Pucci, the Florentine aristocrat, known as the Prince of Prints, as worn by society swans and actresses such as Gloria Guinness and Marella Agnelli as well as Lauren Bacall, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe (who was buried in a Pucci dress) in the 1960s. Jackie O was another fan; in fact her summer style got me hooked on the brand. A favourite image is of her stepping out in Capri with Aristotle Onassis wearing a short shift dress in piqué cotton emblazoned with a kaleidoscopic design, a string of pearls and flat sandals. She realised, like so many others, a Pucci dress would take her effortlessly from beach to bar without sacrificing style.
Capri is synonymous with the brand, where Pucci’s original store, La Canzone del Mare, stocked ankles-kimming Capri pants, poplin shirts, silk scarves and jersey T-shirts in bright colours, from lemon to lilac and cobalt to chartreuse. Symbolically, it was Capri where the current creative director of Pucci, Camille Miceli returned in May to launch her collection “La Grotta Azzurra”. The covetable collection is full of cool separates which featured some solid block colours among the joyful patterns. Part of Miceli’s mission is to balance the inherent sophistication of the brand with accessibility – she has produced enamel bracelets and necklaces, flip flops, and (just affordable) bags, while also reworking the iconic patterns like her predecessors. Former creative directors have included Christian Lacroix, Matthew Williamson, Peter Dundas and Massimo Giorgetti, all appointed since LVMH bought a 67 per cent stake in the company in 2000. They have offered fresh interpretations of Pucci’s unique style, while generating a buzz.
Miceli has focused on the Geometrico, Girandole, Marmo, Iride, Fagiano, Dalia and Pesci prints deliberately keeping them as imperfect as the originals. “I think that digitised patterns strip Pucci’s motifs of the imperfections that are part of their unique charm,” she explained. She’s right of course. Pucci’s most famous print, Vivara, dating from 1965, was inspired by the crescent-shaped island in the Gulf of Naples viewed from above. As a pilot during WWII, most of Pucci’s drawings and prints are memories of his aerial views from the cockpit, hence the swirling patterns, as well as his travels to Africa, Bali and Hawaii.
If a new generation is enthused by the designs, let’s hope they also recognise what a pioneer Emilio Pucci was too. The first garment he created was a colourful ski suit for a female friend to wear on the slopes of Zermatt. The outfit – sleek ski pants and a hooded parka – was photographed for Harper’s Bazaar and orders poured in. If Pucci’s sartorial adventure took off by accident rather than design, he embraced the challenge. Pucci became the first Italian ready-to-wear brand, the first to bear a logo and the first to diversify into other design areas such as interiors and homewares (still on my wish list is a Rive Droite armchair by Cappellini). Let’s not forget he created fabrics that travel well – virtually weightless silk jersey – that were a precursor to sportswear. Designer Diane von Furstenberg admits: “I bought a lot of Pucci and it had a great influence on my own work, especially the idea that print could be so becoming, could be part of the fabric.”
Should you visit Florence this summer, do pop into Villa Pucci, near the Duomo, or drive out to Pucci’s Villa Di Granaiolo. Both house part of the brand’s archives and immense colour collection (they can also be visited virtually) and show how prescient Pucci was. For me, Pucci prints are synonymous with summer joie de vivre, and I stalk The Outnet for bargains, though I acknowledge not everyone is a fan. Karl Lagerfeld famously said, “I think tattoos are horrible. It’s like living in a Pucci dress full-time.”