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Emilio Pucci MA ’37

A picture of Emilio Pucci

Emilio Pucci MA ’37 on the slopes of Mount Hood in 1937. Courtesy of Special Collections, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College.

Emilio Pucci, MA ’37, died November 29, 1992, of an apparent heart attack in a hospital in Florence, Italy. The popular press knew him as a world-famous fashion designer and called him the father of "palazzo pajama" pants and the panty girdle, the man whose creations were worn by Jacqueline Kennedy and Grace Kelly. But Reed knew him as one of its own, his career born when he was a member of the Reed ski team and thought he could improve on the bulky clothing of the day by designing a new uniform. Ultimately manufactured by White Stag, the Portland firm directed by the late Harold S. Hirsch, the uniform launched Pucci's career when he was noticed on the slopes by an Italian fashion photographer. Pucci went on to design in the bright colors of Capri and the Bay of Naples. (Another version of the story has Pucci deciding he could do something about the plight of the beautiful woman skiing with him in the French Alps, her physical attributes hidden in the ungainly ski gear of the period.)

The son of the Marquis of Barsento, a member of one of Florence's oldest families, Pucci inherited his father's tide and a 1,000-year-old palazzo that was his home. A man of elegant bearing, fluent in five languages, Pucci was an aristocrat whose self-taught artistic talent earned him the nickname divino marchese, the divine marquis, for his heavenly creations.

He was educated in Milan and Florence before coming to the U.S. and studying social sciences at Reed. He served in World War II and after, and in 1941–52, as an Italian Air Force pilot. In 1963 he was elected to one of two terms in the Italian parliament.

Pucci's intricate, colorful later designs captured the psychedelic style of the ’60s and were immensely popular. He was also one of the first designers, with Pierre Cardin, to attach his name to a line of products that included perfumes, shoes, and eyeglasses, and his status-symbol belts, scarves, handbags, and shirts sold briskly in world capitals.

Over the years, Pucci visited Reed several times. In 1957 and 1978, he staged fashion shows in Portland as benefits for the college; the 1957 show benefiting the Portland Art Museum as well as Reed. He took part in Reed's 75th anniversary celebration in Portland in 1987 and designed a Reed t-shirt for the event.

Survivors include his wife, Cristina; a daughter, Laudomia, who will continue heading the fashion house, and a son, Alessandro.

More: "Thinker. Tailor. Soldier. Spy."

Appeared in Reed magazine: February 1993

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