The past as prologue: Laudomia Pucci on balancing heritage with innovation

As the Deputy Chairman and Image Director prepares for her Fashion Forward d3 Talk, Emilio’s daughter tells Grazia what to expect
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The past as prologue: Laudomia Pucci on balancing heritage with innovation
Pucci

In its clever merging of past and present and its ability to metamorphose without sacrificing the fundamentals of its house codes, Pucci is a brand that keeps us guessing.

Its inception in 1947, founded by designer and Florentine aristocrat Emilio Pucci, was marked with a revolutionary skiwear and swimwear collection that gained instant traction with the European jet-setting elite.“When we think of the world, there are so many wonderful possibilities,” Laudomia Pucci, who took the helm of the family business following her father’s death in 1992, reveals.

“In terms of our house codes, keep in mind we are Italian. That sounds obvious but it’s crucial. My father was working a lot with the textile factories, fabrics, colours, and print. He was focused on Italian quality. That feeling of being Italian extends to the Italian lifestyle – it’s a happy life, it’s a life that is beautiful. When you think about where you would like to go on vacation, where the food is wonderful, where the women are elegant, where the men are charming, most people think of Italy. We have that kind of optimism in the brand and a real sense of happiness. It’s about capturing those beautiful moments. The clothes are feminine, they express themselves through colour and print, which adds an artistic dimension to them, and they are at their heart, Italian."

Laudomia Pucci

Maintaining those house codes has been fundamental to Pucci’s legacy but, simultaneously, the brand has not shied away from change. Creative directors have included Laudomia herself, as well as Christian Lacroix, Matthew Williamson, Peter Dundas, and, most recently, Massimo Giorgetti, who departed the brand in 2017.

It is a house that has changed and evolved considerably under the tenure of each creative director, but one which has revisited its roots throughout, at times defiantly, and at others as more of a passing gesture. “What’s been really interesting is that the talents of each creative director have only added modernity and vision to the brand,” she says. “Christian Lacroix in the early ’00s gave Pucci a Mediterranean twist with his French couture approach. Matthew Williamson took a modern print approach, using digital printing and new technology. Peter gave it the red-carpet glamour. And Massimo brought it back to the new generation.” 

In terms of that new millennial market, how challenging is it for a brand associated with summer resorts, jet-set glamour and iconic females including Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy and Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway, to cater to it? For Laudomia, the demands of this demographic are already implicit in Pucci’s DNA. “We are a brand that has a double spirit,” she notes. “If you look at Chanel, it changes but remains recognisable. It is known for its use of black and white, its fabrics, couture, tweed, pearls, and so on. It’s the same with us. At Pucci, we create very visual fashion, very strong fashion, and millennials are part of the very visual culture of social media.”

A fringed Fazzoletti-print dress in silk jersey from 1971

She adds, “For me, it’s more how you style a collection than the collection as a whole. I see it with my daughter, who is 21. She goes for the looks that I probably wouldn’t wear. And vice versa.”

Laudomia herself is a woman charged with taking up the mantle of her father’s work and upholding the traditions, standards, and vision of his brand. Rather than seeing that responsibility as a burden, however, she believes in channelling her decades of experience in fashion into the new generation. “I began working with my father when I was very young; Pucci is a family business. I didn’t want to go into fashion, actually; I wanted to go into politics, so it was a different path for me, and I enjoy it so much. My challenge now is to pass on this knowledge. More and more, I work with students and young people straight out of university and throw them into the archives and see the projects that they come out with. The only way to remain relevant is not through myself but through a much younger eye that can take it further than I can see.”

A hooded cape and full-fringed dress from 1971

In terms of that relevance and the changing fashion landscape, how receptive is Pucci to the new see-now-buy-now movement that has already begun revolutionising how we receive, understand, and purchase fashion? “It’s a big debate,” she acknowledges. “I think some brands are doing it brilliantly. For me, the worry is that we are really pushing our creative teams to the very limit. I do not believe in doing that to talent. You can see these people are just exhausted, because they are creating the next thing and then the next thing and it’s immediately available for a limited time at a good price. No, that’s not the kind of fashion I hope we’re going to look at when we talk about the luxury market.”

Emilio Pucci founded his eponymous house in 1947 and is credited with inventing aspirational activewear and popularising resort collections.

There are other seismic shifts carving out a new fashion future, too. Artificial intelligence, for example, is increasingly being touted as the future of retail, with software being developed that tells retailers exactly what and how many products to buy, data being used to make trend predictions, AI-powered search engines tracking customer habits and steering them in the direction of their closest matches, and, most recently, online Goliath Amazon’s development of an algorithm that can design clothing by analysing images and generating new items.

“If creativity gets reduced to artificial intelligence, I’m not sure there’s going to be quality,” she observes. “Maybe in the future I will feel differently but today I don’t see it happening.”

Her reticence to subscribe to AI isn’t, however, a resistance to change. Looking ahead, she wants to see Pucci evolve further and incorporate new technology into its designs. “I would like to see more fabric research, more printing research,” she says. “We will continue to innovate.”

Photos: Courtesy of Pucci