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Pucci Hoping for Touch of Monroe Magic

PARIS — When Emilio Pucci started shipping his groovy, colorful wares to the U.S. in the Fifties, doubters said no one in America would be caught dead in a silk jersey.Then, one day Marilyn Monroe spied an intricately printed, waist-defining...

PARIS — When Emilio Pucci started shipping his groovy, colorful wares to the U.S. in the Fifties, doubters said no one in America would be caught dead in a silk jersey.Then, one day Marilyn Monroe spied an intricately printed, waist-defining Pucci blouse in a store window in Los Angeles. She bought it, immediately put it on, braless, and “the next thing you know she was married. The silk jersey was working,” Laudomia Pucci said, chuckling. “This is a story my father used to love telling.”

And now the Florentine house, part of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is sharing this chapter of its rich heritage by reissuing limited editions of some of Monroe’s favorite Pucci styles from the late Fifties and early Sixties. They are slated to bow next week at Pucci’s new Paris store and in mid-June at its boutiques in New York, Milan, Florence and Portofino.

Monroe counted some 25 pieces of Pucci in her personal wardrobe. They fetched more than $500,000 when Christie’s auctioned them off in 1999. A blouse with a rigid man’s style collar, which brought $75,000, is among the styles being reproduced, along with Capri pants, a dress, a T-shirt and a square handbag. Retail prices range from $490 for shorts and $680 for the handbag to $1,200 for the famous blouse. The colors and prints are faithful to those in the Pucci archive, with fits slightly reworked.Catherine Vautrin, chief executive officer of Pucci, said Monroe epitomized the sexy glamour of the brand and its sporty, jet-set attitude. And, of course, the endorsement by an internationally beloved screen goddess makes for a great talking point for the brand. Still, Pucci will display archival photos of Monroe in its stores and sell her biography by journalist and photographer George Barris for young customers not intimately familiar with her style.Pucci, acquired by LVMH in 2000, is entering a new phase under its new creative director, Christian Lacroix, who will show his first collection for the house in Milan this fall. The new 1,100-square-foot boutique here on Avenue Montaigne, to be feted next week, is also part of efforts to raise the brand’s international profile.