Pucci Exhibit shows designer's early work

Looking back on Emilio Pucci's most iconic whimsical patterns, it's hard to believe that his first pieces were influenced by the Greek ruins of Sicily, the citrus-studded Capri coast, post-war Alpine ski resorts and the allegorical characters of Sandro Botticelli's masterpieces.

"Emilio Pucci and Como," an exhibit organized by the Fondazione Ratti has made some of Pucci's sketches, silk screens, vintage magazine spreads, hand-written notes, accessories and ready-to-wear, open to the general public. The archive pieces were originally collected and preserved by silk manufacturer Ravasi of Como, during the company's decades-long collaboration, which began in the 1950's.



The selection of materials show the evolution of Pucci's designs - how the mosaics and the columns of Magna Grecia, folkloric Sicilian characters like the Medusa and the Florentine crests of the Pucci and Medici families served as the motifs for more mature mid-century collections.

"Foulard Battistero," a 1958 scarf, is a cubist rendering of the Santa Maria Novella Baptistry in Florence and demonstrates Pucci's allegiance to his nobile Florentinian background.

Another 1950's "Isola di Capri" scarf shows the designers fascination with antique maps and seamanship.

Also on display, are ski-inspired scarves, as well as a postcard from the Hotels Seiler in Zermatt, Switzerland. The ski resort is said to be the very place where Pucci's career was launched after designing some ski wear for a female friend on the fly. The designs were photographed by Harper's Bazaar photographer Toni Frissell, whose editors later urged Pucci into a design career.

The exhibit also shows how later on, Italy's resort towns of Southern Italy inspired the Rosa Emilio, Siracusa Yellow and the Blu Capri that are the hallmark colors of some of the 1960's and 70's patterned-scarves and apparel items still worn today.  

Today, fueled by Norwegian-American designer Peter Dundas' creativity, the Pucci house is advancing its red carpet presence - from Oscar parties in Los Angeles to the Met Gala in New York City.

But "Emilio Pucci e Como" reminds us instead of the label's unmistakable Italian origins. Quoting a 1960's interview in Italian glossy Oggi, curators Margherita Rosina and Francina Chiara remind visitors of the brand's heritage.

"I am convinced that Italy offers an inexhaustible variety of motifs and ideas and I have tried to transfer on textile its most significant elements," Emilio Pucci said.


The exhibit will run until October 31 at the Museo Studio del Tessuto, Villa Sucota, which sits on the edge of Italy's majestic Lake Como.