It’s no secret that the digital age has disrupted the very manner in which society operates at every level. From the young to the old, every strata of society is evolving to adapt to the unprecedented socio-economic shifts that have presented themselves since the onset of the digital revolution. The luxury industry, entrenched in tradition and heritage, has been especially slow to adapt and the rationale is comprehensible; evolution if not carefully calibrated, can serve to dilute the very essence of what these brands have represented for decades, or sometimes even centuries.
Emilio Pucci, Marquess of Barsento, photographed on the rooftop of Palazzo Pucci in Florence
One Italian heritage brand stands out from the crowd: Emilio Pucci. In a nation known for its traditionalist approach to fashion, art and culture, Emilio Pucci unexpectedly launched a digital innovation hub amidst one of the world’s most celebrated cultural centers: Florence. Set in the historical heart of the storied city, upon the very streets walked by the likes of Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci, sits the Emilio Pucci Innovation Hub housing within it a digital archive that has immortalized the maison’s remarkable journey since its inception in 1949.
Sala Bianco at the Emilio Pucci Innovation Hub inside Palazzo Pucci
The progressive visionary behind the initiative is no one other than Laudomia Pucci, daughter of Emilio Pucci himself. “It all started out because I have a very large archive,” says Laudomia Pucci. “It was all in boxes in storage. And I thought maybe it isn’t interesting to anyone.” To test the waters, Laudomia took some of the Pucci archives over to Central Saint Martins in London and enlisted the support of prolific British fashion design professor Louise Wilson to expose fashion students to the archival Pucci sketches and materials. “I was convinced it was just me, that it was my archive and it wouldn’t be valuable to anyone else. But then I saw the kids,” smiles Laudomia, “They were so excited about it and they came up with so many incredible projects inspired by it that I decided something had to be done with it, but in a manner that translated the archival content in a to be relevant and accessible in the digital age.” Looking for inspiration on how to go about making the extensive archive available to the public, Laudomia sought inspiration from her late father’s teachings. “I remember travelling with my father. I was in my early twenties at the time and he was almost 70 but he would always make time to talk to young people and was always very interested in what they had to say,” recalls Laudomia. “That’s something he really taught me, and it empowered me to take risk. So when it came to the Pucci archives, I threw it to the kids and told them to tell us what they wanted us to do with it! It was exhausting because most of these kids had never worked before, they had no hands-on experience, no knowledge of budgets or of execution,” she laughs. “But as the project rolled on, there was an authentic energy that came out of it and they came up with ways of doing things that most industry veterans wouldn’t have thought of at all.”
Left: Emilio Pucci presents a summer dress on the terrace of his palazzo in 1954
Right: Emilio Pucci sketches at the Canzone del Mare beach in Capri in 1952
Having started working with her father in her early 20s, Laudomia, now Image Director of the iconic Emilio Pucci label, brings a distinguished, warm, old-world grace to the table. Born into one of Florence’s oldest aristocratic families (Emilio Pucci was the Marquess of Barsento), Laudomia followed her father into the world of fashion. “I had studied politics and wanted to go into politics, but it wasn’t really a choice as I was expected to go into the family business,” explains Laudomia of her career path. “And that is very much an Italian business model: whatever the parents do, the kids end up doing, simple as that.” At 28, Laudomia found herself at the helm of the Emilio Pucci brand, putting into practice everything she learned from her father in all aspects of running the burgeoning family business. Following the marquess’ death 1992, Laudomia singlehandedly lead the brand into the new millennium taking on a multi-disciplinary role. “I was designing, I was selling, I was managing; I just kept on running the business the way my father wanted me to run it,” explains Laudomia. “That was a moment that you probably cannot imagine today in fashion. It was the kind of time where you could pick up the phone and speak to the CEO of Bergdorf Goodman in New York. If you ask me how I did it, I look back and realize that in that age, you just did it. But things were slower then and I’m lucky that because the pace was different, it gave me time to learn and that is something that probably today you don’t get to have time for in the same way.”
Designer Emilio Pucci working on his designs in his atelier in Florence in 1959
In 2000, the Pucci brand underwent one of its biggest changes to date as French luxury conglomerate LVHM took over 67% of the Florentine brand. Laudomia, who moved into the role of Deputy Chairman and Image Director following the acquisition elaborates on the rationale behind the merger, “I was designing but with caution as I was aware that I was not the creative genius that my father was,” she says pragmatically. “So it was very lucky that we consolidated with LVMH because it wasn’t a question of money, it was a question of supply chain which was changing so rapidly. You cannot stay in the same company for as long as I have if you do not reinvent yourself. In this journey, you learn about retail, you learn about finance, you learn about creative, you learn about digital. You need to be curious about what’s next. And this is the very reason why I am now working with such a young group of people; because they don’t know what the brand was about before, and they can present it with a fresh eye.”
Left: Laudomia Pucci with father Emilio Pucci at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1985
Right: The brand's founder at Palazzo Pucci approximately 30 years ago
Laudomia’s innate understanding of luxury along with her open-mindedness and down-to-earth approach have made her an exemplary leader in the fashion industry; effortlessly fusing heritage with innovation to present a highly relevant, evolutionary vision of luxury that withstands the disruption of the digital age. “What is luxury?” asks Laudomia. “For me luxury is quality. Quality of fabric, quality of fit, quality of manufacturing, quality of the service you get. I started meeting and inviting influencers to our shows years ago, before it was considered the norm. A lot of people asked me why I was doing it but my response has always been why not? I consider all these developments to be instruments for our business so why not employ them? But the product has to be perfect and the quality has to be there – there can be absolutely no compromise on that.”
Models at the Emilio Pucci SS/20 presentation at Milan Fashion Week
And it is this inherent devotion to luxury that has allowed Emilio Pucci to maintain its foothold within the fashion industry’s ever-changing landscape. Known for ingeniously merging pioneering fabrics and state-of-the-art techniques with classic silhouettes and vibrant prints, the Emilio Pucci brand today has become a global luxury icon, with the Middle East being home to an ever-increasing number of Pucci aficionados. “It’s bold, it’s strong and it’s got its viewpoint,” says Laudomia of the regional market. “You can see that the people embrace fashion, and really enjoy shopping. They want to look beautiful; they want to dress up. It’s not minimal but I really like that because it’s good to have different viewpoints and visibly see the different cultures.”
Laudomia Pucci led the discussion on Heritage & Innovation at Fashion Forward 2019 in Dubai
On the topics of viewpoints, it was imperative we asked Laudomia on her thoughts on the pivotal sustainability movement within the fashion industry. “I think this is fantastic that we are all talking about it and trying hard of finding ways to address this. One of the things I am really not supportive of is fast fashion,” says Laudomia passionately. “You wear it once or twice and then throw it away. But with our pieces, you may need to save up to buy them but they are designed to last. It’s like when you make a good cake, you may not present it twice to the same people but you would probably keep it and enjoy it the next day. You wouldn’t be able to do that with a McDonalds meal because it won’t last! Pucci does not destroy things, we have made cushions from leftover fabrics, today they call it zero waste but to us it’s just common sense. We are a little bit like fois gras, you cannot consume too much and you don’t need to.”
Emilio Pucci's Spring-Summer 2020 collection
As we close out the conversation, we wanted to ask a question about Emilio Pucci’s future that many have had on their minds since Massimo Giorgetti’s departure in 2017: can we expect to see another Creative Director at the brand? “I think at some point we will have a Creative Director again,” confirms Laudomia. “We are doing a good job at the moment; we have gone back to our DNA and it’s good to take a break to reset the brand and bring it back to its roots from a creative perspective,” elaborates Laudomia on their decision to work with a young, in-house design team. “There is so much talent within the industry which is not necessarily reserved at the directorial level. We are so pleased with our latest collections which have been very well received overall.”
Open-minded, charming, socially responsible and remarkably down-to-earth, Laudomia Pucci one of those rare industry leaders who is quietly driving the evolution and growth of the luxury fashion section from the inside out; with a focus on empowering and nurturing young talent so that the industry continues to thrive for generations to come.
Images courtesy of Emilio Pucci, Getty & Instagram/LaudomiaPucci