Pattern Recognition

Pucci gives Fifth Avenue a whirl.Photo: Nikolas Koenig

It’s easy to file Pucci under the sixties—those swirling patterns, those mod summer-in-Capri shapes. In fact, the label has never quite gone out of favor since it was launched by the Italian playboy Emilio Pucci in 1948. The patterns get knocked off by everyone from H&M to Versace; vintage shops from East Hampton to East Lansing traffic in scarves and shifts. Uptown ladies have long relied on Pucci stretch pants to get through a pregnancy, and the truly fashion-obsessed stop in after their Lotte Berke classes for the silk underwear. Until recently, they found it in a townhouse on East 64th Street, across from the home of Donatella Versace (who has been known to nab ideas from the line) and the offices of Oleg Cassini, Emilio Pucci’s close childhood friend. The store was tiny and quiet, considering the loudness of the prints and the firm’s madcap history. Vogue, in the sixties, declared that Pucci had “largely invented the look of the woman of the moment—one might almost say he has invented the woman herself.”

But even the most effective brand eventually needs reinvention, and this week, Pucci opens a Fifth Avenue store, back-to-back with the St. Regis Hotel. “We are keeping our roots, and we are moving ahead,” Emilio’s eldest daughter, Laudomia, says from her office in Florence. “We’re keeping the old space, but we want a window on New York.” (The store soft-opened in July, with limited inventory, to work out its kinks before the onslaught of Fashion Week.) The move is the work of Laudomia, who’s spent the past few years making like the Missonis and bringing the house up to date. “My father lost some of his creativity at the end,” she admits, explaining the company’s wave of activity after his death in 1992. First came the acquisition by LVMH, in 2000. In 2002, Christian Lacroix, the spectacular French couturier who might be called Pucci’s spiritual heir, came on as creative director.

The new store, with a luminescent view onto the busy trade of Fifth, does signal a new era, but the biggest changes are within. “People love the vintage, but they can’t find everything,” Laudomia says. In the store are Pucci rain boots and hats, silk ballerina flats, and leather bags. “What’s very important is that it’s a link to what you’ve already known,” Laudomia says. “It’s the Pucci of today, but it reminds me so much of the Pucci of yesterday.”

Pucci, 701 Fifth Avenue, at 54th Street; opens September 7.

Pattern Recognition