CAPRI IN THE ’50s
Off Piste, Emilio Pucci
Along with Burberry check and Missoni knits, Pucci’s prints are probably some of the most recognisable in the fashion industry. But what about the man behind the brand? Who has Emilio Pucci and how did all this psychedelia start?
Don Emilio Pucci was born in Florence, Italy in 1914 to one of Italy’s most prominent noble families. He lived a charmed life growing up in the Pucci Palace, playing tennis, fencing, and racing cars.
Emilio Pucci loved winter sports, and in 1932 he travelled to New York’s Lake Placid as part of the Italian Olympic team, though he didn’t go on to compete. This love of snowy sportsmanship was in fact the little known start for “Pucci” as a label.
Though we now associate the brand to girls with flowing locks, lounging on yachts, the colourful patterns of Pucci prints started out in a very different landscape. In the late 1940s Emilio Pucci was in fact the founding father of sports-luxe on the Swiss Ski slopes.
In 1947 he hit the slopes wearing streamlined outfits he had designed for himself and his socialite ski bunny friends, including the very liberal Reed College Ski Team. While skiing he was captured by a Harper’s Bazaar photographer. Those images started what was, in its day, a viral sensation. Inspired by the worldwide interest in his creations, he set up his atelier in the Pucci Family palazzo. In what was a rather revolutionary way for the time; he wanted women to be able to move freely. Both on and off the slopes.
Unlike his contemporaries he used stretch and performance fabrics. He wanted the women he dressed to be able to move, play sports, and dance. Pucci became a go-to for a generation of his wealthy female peers, discovering new freedoms from their fashions.
Pucci’s clothing was supposed to be travel friendly and wrinkle proof. And where better to capture the travelling sets attention than by opening a boutique in glamorous 1950s Capri. Mr. Pucci became so synonymous with the Italian city, he went on to create “Capri Pants”. The trouser was a true sign of the times, a revolution in chic liberation. Stretchy and cut just above the ankle, the pants were designed for ladies on the run, not wanting to get fabric caught in mopeds or bike chains.
Perhaps Emilio was unwittingly a dashing feminist!
From his Capri store Emilio launched into the prints that became his calling card. The island and his parties inspiring the colourful batiks.
His sports-luxe, female, and curve-friendly clothing line continued to grow in recognition. And in the 1960s he helped design perhaps to most contemporary look of the time, the uniforms for NASA’s Apollo 15 mission. He also reimagined the Braniff Airline hostess uniforms, creating a now infamous answer to the airlines claim of “The end to the Plain Plane”.
In his later life, the 1960s found Emilio Pucci running for political office as a Liberal Party candidate in Florence. He won but eventually lost his seat in 1972.
He lived well and loved dearly. Describing his long marriage with wife Cristina Nannini as “I married a Botticelli’.
Today, the essence of his ready to wear, swimwear, and prints continues to live on as part of the LVMH Group portfolio of brands, overseen by his daughter.