Pucci is one of the few fashion lifestyle brands of the last century that still has the ability to appear avant-garde in the 21st. And now its giddy retro-future boutique has landed on Fifth Avenue, as part of a new expansion courtesy of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (which bought a 67 percent stake in Pucci in 2000).
As always, Pucci champions the virtues of the well-situated petite boutique. The stores that have opened in the LVMH era are all the work of Brazilian-born interior designer Lena Pessoa of Deux L (Paris) and Italian architect Tiziano Vudafieri of Vudafieri Partners (Milan). The new outpost on Fifth Avenue, between 54th and 55th streets, is as intimate and inviting as a mother's closet - that is, if the mother is an eternally funky iconic beauty, like Pucci fan Marisa Berenson, and the closet is on her private jet.
Laudomia Pucci, the daughter of Emilio Pucci di Barsento of Florence (the founder of the fashion house who died in 1992), is enthusiastic about how the LVMH relationship has given her brand a glam new lease on life. She credits creative director Christian Lacroix for making the fashion line vital again. "In the late 1980s and 90s, my father couldn't be as active and the vision suffered," she says. "That amount of time is like six generations in the fashion world - and yet to look at what's in the store today, it looks absolutely now. [Lacroix] gets the Pucci logic."
As Pucci ceo Catherine Vautrin says of the couture house's revival, "It's like seeing the awakening of a very chic, very dynamic sleeping beauty."
A beauty wearing swirls of geometry, florals, paisley and bright colors. When the Marchese was alive, the fashion press nicknamed him "The Prince of Prints," which remain the brand's signature. But as Vautrin concedes, "Our product is bright, and we didn't want our customer to enter a small space and feel overwhelmed." So Pessoa designed the interior as carefully as a jewelry showcase, offsetting the merchandise as if it were semi-precious couture gems. She wanted to evoke the sun and sea, so central to the resort lifestyle that originally inspired Emilio. The lighting is in a bright register, which electrifies the intense hues - as the natural light does in Capri, the resort town on the Amalfi coast where Emilio first opened a store (and which became the name for the tight-cropped pant he popularized).
The femininity of the store is accentuated by its curves and colors. The casework surfaces have no pointed corners and are finished in high-shine automotive paint. Other display cabinetry is in milky acrylic. The floor is a surreal cotton-candy lilac-dyed stone/resin. The ceiling is a back-lit oval soffit, pierced by spotlights like the jets on the underside of a sci-fi spaceship.
With Lacroix on board, many of the prices are quite heady, but the clothes, bags and shoes are all on open display, inviting to be touched. The ethereal vibe and the illusion of floating merchandise are achieved with mass-defying materials and more lighting tricks: The clothes hang off of transparent dowels descending from the ceiling (Boeing uses them as curtain rods on planes); dainty bags are suspended in their own clear boxes from small cables in the front; and lighting under the translucent case work and underneath the shelving further enhances the weightlessness.
A floor-to-ceiling semi-transparent scrim from the current catalog is a backdrop for the window mannequins, serving as a mysterious veil to the interior so the visitor still gets a stunning surprise view once she walks in. From within, the scrim shields from view the mundane street, preserving the otherworldly shopping experience.
The retailer also recently opened a new store in Las Vegas - with a larger shoe section - and has four stores in the works in Japan.
Yes, the Italian sleeping beauty has awakened to a dreamy new makeover indeed - and to a revitalized Prints Charming.
Client: Emilio Pucci/LVMH, Florence, Italy
Illaria Satori, retail operations
Wendy Kahn, general manager (New York)
Design: Vudafieri Partners, Milan, Italy
Tiziano Vudafieri, principal
Deborah Mariotti, project architect
Deux L, Paris
Lena Pessoa, designer
General Contractor: J.T. Magen, New York
Executive Architect: McKay Architecture and Design, New York
Photography: Santi Caleca, Milan