Emilio Pucci, Marquis of Barsento, was born in Florence, Italy on 20 November 1914.
An enthusiastic sportsman who was on the Italian Olympic ski team in 1932, he also raced cars and excelled in swimming, tennis and fencing.
After two years at the University of Milan, he studied agriculture at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, USA, where he became a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society. In 1935 he won a skiing scholarship to Reed College in Oregon, received an MA in social science from Reed in 1937, and was awarded his doctorate in political science from the University of Florence the same year. At Reed he was known as a staunch defender of the Fascist regime in Italy
His emergence as a fashion designer happened somewhat accidentally.
He was an Italian bomber pilot in World War II and he continued in the air force after the war, holding the rank of captain. On leave in Switzerland in 1947, he was spotted on the ski slopes by Toni Frissel, a photographer, who was impressed by the snugness of his ski garb, which was custom made of stretch fabrics
When photographs of Mr. Pucci in his skisuit appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, he was besieged by American manufacturers who wanted to produce it. He decided instead to market the ski clothes himself. They were among the first styles made of stretch fabrics, and Lord & Taylor was among the first to promote them.
By 1950, Mr. Pucci was at the forefront of the fledgling Italian fashion industry. His forte in the beginning was sports clothes, but he soon moved into other fashions, including brilliantly patterned silk scarves. Encouraged by Stanley Marcus, one of the owners of Neiman-Marcus, he began making blouses and then dresses of the patterned material.
By the 1960’s, a dress in the distinctively patterned Pucci print, which used as many as 16 colors in a single design, was the uniform of fashionable women everywhere in the world. Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Gina Lollobrigida and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were some of the women photographed in Pucci designs.
In 1959, Pucci decided to create a lingerie line. His atelier in Rome advised him to develop the line abroad, avoiding the difficulties of a decade earlier in matching available fabrics to the patterns of his first swimwear line. As a result, Pucci came to Chicago giving the lingerie contract to Formfit-Rogers mills. The venture proved to be successful, and Pucci was made vice president in charge of design and merchandising for the company a year later. Also in 1959, Pucci was introduced to Baronessa Cristina Nannini, a Roman baroness, at his boutique in Capri. Pucci would later marry her, claiming: “I married a Botticelli“.
|Pucci and Cristina
Emilio Pucci was one of the first designers to stretch the boundaries of fashion, lending his creative talent to a variety of lifestyle projects.
These include futuristic airline uniforms for Braniff International, the logo for the Apollo 15 space mission, porcelain vases for Rosenthal, the interiors of the Ford Lincoln Continental Mark IV and many more.It is a design tradition that continues to the present day, as evidenced by a Pucci-printed sail for Wally Yachts and furniture produced in collaboration with Cappellini.