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Recharging Pucci

Preparing his first collection for Pucci, Christian Lacroix is ready to take the venerable Florentine fashion house on a wild ride.<br><br><br><br>Christian Lacroix’s makeover of Pucci is taking shape. Literally.<br><br>Bringing new silhouettes...

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Preparing his first collection for Pucci, Christian Lacroix is ready to take the venerable Florentine fashion house on a wild ride.

Christian Lacroix’s makeover of Pucci is taking shape. Literally.

Bringing new silhouettes to a brand known mostly for its prints are among the French couturier’s chief plans for the Florentine house, part of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The designer unveils his first Pucci collection on Saturday — one of the most highly anticipated shows of the Milan season.

In an exclusive interview, Lacroix articulated his new direction for Pucci, headlined by his desire to transform the house from a jet-set icon of the Sixties into a fashion leader of today.

“My shapes are not the same ones they used to do,” Lacroix said. “It was not so easy for the [pattern makers]. The shapes used to be quite simple. But we have to reestablish the label on a real creative scale, not only in terms of color and pattern, but even as an attitude in cutting. I want to have a real chemistry between the shape and the print.”

To wit: Some of his planned looks for next spring and summer consist of layers of printed chiffon for a floating, “aquatic” effect. For others, Lacroix cut out a detail of a print and incorporated it into the structure of garments. It’s all designed to give a three-dimensional effect to what basically had been a two-dimensional brand. Even capri pants, a Pucci staple, have been reinterpreted by Lacroix in silk jersey for a new silhouette and attitude.

Lacroix said he wants to preserve the “sporty” heritage of the label, which was launched by Emilio Pucci with a collection of jersey skiwear in 1947. But he plans to add a streetwise yet sophisticated sensibility. Lacroix described his debut collection as “between sportswear and fairy tales, between Tinkerbell and the beach.”

Of course, Pucci’s vivid palette and graphic prints remain essential ingredients. For spring, Lacroix worked with prints from the house’s rich archive, reworking the colors and scale with the aid of computers. He also opted to execute some prints in black and white, feeling that multicolor prints can be limiting.

“I’m crazily in love with the repertoire [of vintage prints], but sometimes you need to break it up a little,” he said.

Lacroix said he has begun developing new Pucci prints for his fall 2003 collection, one of which will be featured on Saturday’s invitation as a teaser.

“It’s endless what we can do with these prints and patterns,” he said.

Lacroix, who celebrates the 15th anniversary of his couture house this year, said he’s relishing the additional design duty. Since being assigned the Pucci project last May, he’s been shuttling back and forth between Paris and Florence with glee.

“It’s my real nature. Even before I started at Jean Patou, I used to be freelance,” he said. “Early in my career, for one year, I did shoes for a factory in Italy and I consulted for several customers in Japan.”

Lacroix’s appointment at Pucci caught many by surprise, given the industry’s — and particularly LVMH’s — penchant for installing young, much-hyped talents at major houses. Lacroix, 50, succeeded a string of designers who failed to ignite a major revival at Pucci. It is believed Lacroix’s presence at the house will also give a boost to his own signature business.

According to LVMH’s annual report, Pucci posted direct sales of about $3 million last year.

Lacroix said he’s conscious that expectations for him are high, and he hopes to build on Pucci’s loyal following and enlarge the customer base to “fashion-conscious people.”

“It’s not easy, of course, but they have such an image. It’s amazing,” he said. “I’m very passionate about doing this.”

Lacroix is keen to get his hands on many product categories for Pucci, from men’s wear to jewelry to fragrances. For spring, he applied his sensibility to footwear, swimwear and lingerie.

He said the house would continue to reproduce key vintage items, having reported healthy sales over the summer of limited editions of styles popularized by Marilyn Monroe in the Fifties and Sixties. A velvet purse popularized by Marissa Berenson in 1965 is the next reissue slated to arrive in Pucci stores.

But Lacroix has other priorities. “We are doing the vintage of tomorrow,” he said with a smile.

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