"True elegance is freedom of expression," said designer Emilio Pucci.
Indeed, it was this Italian marquis, born in Naples in 1914, who helped liberate women in the 1950s and '60s with his kaleidoscopic prints and lightweight jersey fabrics. An Olympic skier (he was a member of Italy's team in 1934), Pucci got his start in fashion on the slopes of the Swiss Alps, where he styled a girlfriend in sleek ski pants and attracted the eye of a Harper's Bazaar photographer. The streamlined look caught on with Pucci's jet-set friends, and he soon became known for his resort wear. By the time Pucci opened his first shop, in Capri in 1950, he was dressing the likes of Sophia Loren and Gloria Guinness. Fabric innovation came with Pucci's first wrinkle-free jersey dresses that, he would brag, weighed less than six ounces. But it wasn't until the 1960s that Pucci started extensively using the vibrant prints that became the label's leitmotif. They were so popular that by the 1970s Pucci had expanded his empire into everything from perfume to rugs to airline uniforms. But in the 1980s, faced with a fickle consumer, the business slowed until the iconic prints came back into fashioninspiring cheap street knockoffs and affectionate designer referencesshortly before Pucci's death in 1992. Today the designer's daughter Laudomia carries on the family legacy with the help of British-born designer Matthew Williamson.
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