Having previously lamented about the lack of summer in the UK (although it’s turning up right about now), I thought I’d roll back time to when I was in the Tuscan hills, taking in the spiritual home of Emilio Pucci. It’s rare that I get to go see the roots of Italian powerhouses unlike their French counterparts. Either they’re remote stable secrets or they’re not open to the likes of me. Pucci, though being part of the LVMH Group was a participant of the “Les Journées Particulières” programme, where for a weekend back in May, they threw the doors open to the Villa Granaiolo, forty minutes outside of Florence, so that they could learn about Pucci’s heritage and history. This idyllic Renaissance-era Tuscan villa has been in the Pucci family since the 16th century, and it was one of Emilio Pucci’s favourite residences, which is why his daughter Laudomia decided to transfer some of the house’s archives here to create a private museum as well as creating a dedicated space to training students in the ways of print design.
Whilst I was in Florence for Pitti, Pucci were kind enough to extend the opening of this special exhibition so that we could take in the splendour of the villa itself – and inhale some of that slowed-down Tuscan pace that in some ways is related to Pucci’s associations with the sun-worshipping jet set, as well as an exhibition that delves into the elements that make Pucci’s aesthetic so distinctive, whether it’s the original prints by Emilio, or by subsequent successors like Matthew Williamson, Peter Dundas and now of course, Massimo Giorgetti.
Before we began to delve into the exhibition, we got to take in the most Pucci pieces of furniture I think there is. An outdoor arrangement of oversized padded seating covered in a swirl of Neapolitan-esque pink and yellow. It’s the sort of furniture that naturally invites you to lounge about in the sort of printed caftans, stretch fabric swimwear and towelling jumpsuits that Emilio pioneered. Wrapping around the main house is a cleverly proportioned staircase lawn, designed by Niccolo Grassi, mirroring the geometric lines of some of Pucci’s archive prints. From here you can catch a glimpse of a delicious looking swimming pool that again, ties in with that Pucci lifestyle.
The exhibition though revealed to me aspects of Pucci’s history unbeknownst to me. Curated by historian Maria Luisa Frisa. It bears reminding the innovative nature of Pucci’s history in that he successfully exported an Italian aesthetic abroad on a large scale, by its ability to create ready-made sizes in a plethora of colour and print variations. The first things you see in the exhibition space are the glass fronted wardrobes of colour-arranged capri trousers in shades that are custom Pantone colours with at least thirty shades of “Rosa” pink. Laid out in sections of ‘Forms’, ‘Materials’ and ‘Patterns’, you can explore Pucci’s universe from its mid-20th century beginnings to the present day with Giorgetti taking on the modern Prince of Prints mantle.
There’s of course the scarf tops/tunics and jumpsuits that make up the ‘Forms’ sections, ranging from the fluid to the structured. There’s the distinctly Pucci materials such as the stretch jerseys, silks and towelling and chenille fabrics. Across ready to wear and accessories, Pucci’s prints of course come to the fore, exploring thematic umbrellas such as monochrome, optical, orientalist and landscapes. There’s also an intriguing display of Pucci accessories from across the decades that include splendid oddities such as a papal-esque velvet printed hat or a pair of calcio Florentino (a historic form of football) canvas shoes. The links across the house’s numerous designers can clearly be seen in the exuberance of everything. Behind the mannequins, lies the bulk of Pucci’s archives hanging on wardrobes. It’s the rail rifling of dreams for any print enthusiast, which is why Villa Granaiolo is regularly open to students from Central Saint Martins, Polimoda and ECAL in Lausanne to come and explore the archives and work on their own projects in the attached ‘Talent Centre’.
As the Villa isn’t strictly speaking open to the public outside of the Journées Particulières programme, it felt like a privilege to come by this tucked away Pucci-world (or Pucci-verse). It’s hard to look at this curated display of buoyant clothes and not away thoughts of sun-drenched days. They’re somewhere around the corner.