Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pucci and Capucci: A Comparison of Two Influential Italian Designers

The fashion designers of the world can be separated into different broad categories. One of the ways you can categorize them would be by countries. Each country has a certain general style. Italy has been known for its’ well crafted elegant fashion. Within this category there are of course many differences between designers and each designer has a unique way of fitting into the world of Italian fashion. Two important Italian fashion designers we have studied this semester that interest me are Emilio Pucci and Roberto Capucci. These designers share similarities and differences in their design aesthetic and careers. Both have influenced and inspired people with their unique approach to fashion.

Emilio Pucci was born in Florence in 1914. He was born into an old noble family of Florence and grew up in what is currently the Pucci Foundation in Florence dedicated to the life work of Emilio Pucci. Emilio Pucci did not study fashion design in college but instead studied the relationships between Italy and the United States. This background would eventually serve as an aid to Emilio Pucci due to the growing fashion market in the United States at the time. So interestingly, Pucci did not intend on becoming a fashion designer. Because he was an avid skier he moved to Switzerland to become a ski instructor for young upper class ladies. He began to design ski wear and was discovered by the editor of Harper’s Bazaar which at the time was Diana Vreeland who would later go on to become the editor of American Vogue. This is basically what started his career in fashion design. His first collection would seem strange considering Pucci is known for his wildly colorful prints because it was completely black and white. He used only black and white because he could not find the proper colors he was looking for. He designed elegant sportswear and this first collection was sold to Lord & Taylor. As Emilio Pucci became more famous he was able to work directly with the textile producers in Italy to produce the exact colors he needed so then began creating the well-known colorful prints. The 1960s were very prosperous for Pucci but the 1970s and especially the 1980s were not very successful. This was because the style of Pucci is so distinct and did not fit in well with the trends of the period. In the 1990s there was a surge of demand for Pucci clothing, specifically vintage. Today there is a challenge for the new designers to uphold the image of Emilio Pucci but continue to lead a successful brand in the current fashion industry.

Roberto Capucci was born in Rome in 1930. He attended art school because he had always wanted to do something artistic. Roberto Capucci’s career in fashion began early in his life. Giovanni Battista Giorgini discovered him at the time when the Italian fashion industry was growing rapidly in Florence. Giorgini is famous for holding the first major fashion shows in the Sala Bianca in Palazzo Pitti thereby establishing the fashion industry in Florence. Giorgini asked Roberto Capucci to show his first collection at the Sala Bianca fashion show when he was only 21 years old. Many other famous designers of the time were upset that such a young designer would be allowed to show at the major Florence fashion show with no background in the fashion industry so the work of Capucci was shown in the ballroom after the show instead. Still, Roberto Capucci received many fantastic reviews, even from Christian Dior, and immediately became popular in the fashion industry. He opened a house in Paris later but eventually returned to Rome choosing to create only one collection per year.

I found two designs that have achieved a very similar effect. The design on the left is by Emilio Pucci and the design on the right is by Roberto Capucci. Both designs are very colorful striped dresses that have a radial pattern. Even the colors used are very similar. So here we see a similarity in appearance but the technique and construction are very different. Pucci uses print to create this effect while Capucci actually pieces together strips of different fabrics to make a striped look. Also evident in these images is how both designers work closely with the development of textiles. Pucci works closely with printing processes and developing print design and Capucci develops different ways to construct sculptural forms. He does this by layering several layers of fabric in different ways to create a strong material that can be sculpted into different shapes. Pucci also is known for being one of the first major designers to embrace synthetics and develop them further. Both designers also have a foundation based in Florence currently to display work and to promote the history and future of the company.

The most apparent difference between Pucci and Capucci is that Pucci’s designs focus on pattern rather than form or construction and Capucci’s designs focus mostly on form and shape and almost completely ignores pattern unless it is created through the construction. Pucci garments have artistic value because of the intricate prints that take many layers and different colors to create while the construction is very basic so as not to compete with the print. For example the image above on the left shows a very simple dress by Pucci but still has so much interest because of the print. The one to the right by Capucci is totally monochromatic but the shape and form of the gown are what create interest. Capucci designs are very dramatic and complex in construction and most gowns take many yards of fabric to create. Another difference is how Pucci has always been very well marketed and aims to be very wearable and fun. Pucci also produced many other types of products such as house wares like carpet and furniture and also jewelry and sunglasses. Capucci was never interested in the money in the fashion industry and was more concerned with creating a sculptural artistic piece even if it disregards all trends. Pucci garments are very wearable while Capucci gowns would be worn for very special occasions. In most of the images I found, all of the Pucci clothing was modeled on a person but the Capucci gowns were mostly on mannequins. Another difference is the inspiration behind the designs. Pucci was known for using easily recognizable Italian imagery as inspiration for his collections. A few examples of this are his Sicilian collection, Palio collection, and a Botticelli collection. Capucci has said he uses his mind as inspiration and emotions to create his work.

Both Emilio Pucci and Roberto Capucci have inspired and intrigued me this semester. Pucci is inspirational for me because as a designer using or creating prints has always been a challenge for me. I usually do not use many prints when designing so the work of Pucci is very interesting to me in this way. Capucci is very inspiring because it is so sculptural. It shows that fashion design can be extremely artistic and dramatic. I have always been interested in sculpture and how clothing can be a form on its’ own and not always conform to the body. Before this class I knew very little about Roberto Capucci and now he is one of my favorite designers. The work of both Pucci and Capucci is so distinct and unique. It would be interesting to see if one could combine the aesthetics of these two designers or form some sort of collaboration. Instead of piecing together different colored fabric how Capucci would construct a garment it could be possible to print the colors on the fabric first and then construct the garment in a similar way. To compare Pucci and Capucci it is obvious how many different ways there are to approach fashion.