NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARBULLETIN.COM
Pucci designs were shown during the finale of Neiman Marcus' spring fashion show. Shown were Spring/Summer 2006 designs, such as a Blue Ottagoni-printed silk georgette evening gown.
The designer makes his mark with bold color and graphics
There are certain rites of passage a woman never forgets: her sweet 16th birthday, her first kiss, her wedding day, and, according to Giovanni Cafiso, her first Pucci.
"I have had so many women come up to me and tell me the first time she wore Pucci, where she went, how she wore it, even if it was 30, 40, 50 years ago. That's the power of Pucci," said Cafiso, United States national sales manager for Pucci. "And she'll tell me if she still has it. If she doesn't, she's kicking herself. The Pucci customer realizes you do want to keep it with you forever.
"Marilyn Monroe was such a fan. Most people don't know this, but she was buried in a Pucci gown."
Cafiso was at Neiman Marcus last weekend to present Pucci's spring collections and offer a mini-preview of fall's collection, marking a transition for the company as it introduces the work of its new designer, Matthew Williamson.
NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARBULLETIN.COM
Pucci designs were shown during the finale of Neiman Marcus' spring fashion show including a fall preview that included this metal-embellished dress.
The London designer, who continues to present his own collection, is known, like Pucci, for his vibrant use of color. He took over from Christian Lacroix, who had led Pucci's design team since the company was purchased by LVMH in 2000. Under Lacroix, Pucci sales quadrupled and the upward trajectory shows no signs of abating as younger audiences rediscover the brand launched by Emilio Pucci in 1947.
Pucci was an Italian marquis and member of the Italian Olympic ski team. He was photographed after World War II by Harper's Bazaar on the Italian ski slopes, wearing pants he designed, and a line was born.
"He designed as much for Americans as Italians," Cafiso said. "He was catering to the jet-set traveler, using fabrics with stretch and Capri pants."
These days "capri" refers to a style of narrow mid-calf trousers, but back then they were named for the Italian isle where Pucci opened a boutique in 1949. In addition to Monroe, his clients included Sophia Loren and Paloma Picasso.
"The woman who can wear Pucci has a casual confidence. Anyone who can wear head-to-toe print has to be confident," Cafiso said. "Women who wear it love the color; they love the fluidity; femininity, definitely; and she wants to make a statement.
"Pucci is very appealing to young people who are just starting to hear about it. One of the first things that attracts them is the prints. What keeps them excited is the history," said Cafiso. "What they're buying is not only the product, but they're buying into the history, the experience, the nostalgia of the house."
Some of that history is being revived as Williamson revisited the Pucci archives to reintroduce iconic prints, redone in novel ways, whether playing with scale or rendering the designs in bead and stone embellishment. One of the prints, dubbed "Hawa" features a yin-yang Asian motif panel print, in a relatively subdued black, taupe, brown and beige palette. Even in the absence of Pucci's signature sorbet colors, from popping pinks to melon sorbet, it is instantly recognizable.
"The beauty of Pucci is that you can look at it from across the street or across a room and identify it. The prints read as a logo without being a true logo. Not many companies can pull that off," said Cafiso.
In spite of the size and global reach of parent company LVMH, Cafiso said Pucci is still run as a family company.
Although Cafiso has been with Pucci for two years since arriving from Celine, and before that, Vera Wang, his face was full of joy as he watched the Pucci designs being modeled on the floor of Neiman's, as if he were seeing them for the first time.
"The prints themselves are part of the family, and seeing them on brings them to life for you," said Cafiso. "I see the same excited reactions on women's faces when they realize, 'I can wear Pucci.'
"The first introduction to Pucci is usually through a scarf, and that's usually the start of a lifelong Pucci collection."