PUCCI CONQUERS CYBERSPACE
Byline: Peter Braunstein
NEW YORK — “It’s a little like a Sixties happening,” Ayshe Farman-Farmaian, chief creative director of design and communication agency DigitalForm, told WWD Thursday during an exclusive preview of the new Pucci Web site at emiliopucci.com.
There are designers and there are brands, but Pucci has always been a world — and the new Web site, scheduled to go live early next month, ensconces the user in a luxuriant Pucci print-scape.
“This site is in some ways a tease, a taste of things to come,” said Asa Mader, partner and chief interactive architect of DigitalForm. “They are relaunching the brand, and this site’s purpose is to show that Pucci is new and relevant.”
The trick, of course, is to evoke Pucci without getting lost in pure nostalgia, and the marketing-driven Web site’s designers attempt to pull this off through a post-modern melange of old and new. On a persistent toolbar, one of the Web site’s sections is “Emilio Pucci Now,” which is thematically centered around the dualism Then-Now. Historical photos of Emilio Pucci and company milestones are joined with modern images, taken by Milanese photographer Francesco Pignatelli, which seamlessly intermingle contemporary and classic Pucci.
Image director Laudomia Pucci, daughter of Emilio and the Marchesa Cristina Pucci, considers the Web site’s historical focus one of its strong points. “I don’t think any fashion house with a history has tried to convey that dimension to an online audience,” Pucci told WWD. “They focus solely on now.”
The “Collections” section enables users to access Pucci designs by “look” or by “print,” be it “Lamborghini” or “Pave”; meanwhile, a nouveau-retro soundtrack, Sixties go-go meets Nineties lounge, reinforces the post-modern timelessness effect. The ultimate statement the Web site seems to be making is: In Pucci-land, it’s always 5:30 p.m. and someone you recently met in the first-class lounge of a Pan Am 747 just served you an extra-dry martini at your villa near Stresa.
There is no e-commerce on the Web site, but a “Boutiques” section jettisons surfers to the Pucci boutique at eLuxury.com, the joint venture mounted by Bernard Arnault’s Internet development vehicle, Europatweb, and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
An interactive “Guestbook” area at emiliopucci.com asks users: “Do you have a Pucci story of your own?” and solicits e-mail responses. “There is such a sense of belonging in the world of Pucci, it’s unbelievable,” said Laudomia Pucci. “I’ve heard women tell me stories like, ‘I left my husband dressed in Pucci,’ or ‘I want to be buried in Pucci,’ and those are the kind of Pucci stories we hope to collect on the site.”
In 2000, LVMH formed an alliance with the Pucci family, acquiring a majority stake in the company in February 2000. The Web site launch is part of an overall campaign to reinvigorate the brand, which includes:
Pucci stores in Milan and Portofino, Italy; Saint Moritz, and Palm Beach opened during the past 10 months.
The debut this April of Emilio Pucci chairs and sofas, conceived in cooperation with furniture designer Cappellini.
Expansion of ready-to-wear and accessories collections, supervised by newly appointed artistic director Julio Espada and image director Laudomia Pucci.
The Pucci Web site is the newest feather in the cap of DigitalForm, based here, which has assembled a clientele among fashion houses and cultural institutions seeking to transfer their brand image to the Internet. Because its principals all have film and TV production backgrounds, they are intent on elaborating new multimedia narratives rather than simply converting static text and images to new formats. DigitalForm president Farhad Farman-Farmaian and partner Mader both completed graduate work in Interactive Design and Motion Graphics at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunication Program; chief creative director Ayshe Farman-Farmaian attended the prestigious MIT Media Lab under the tutelage of Nicholas Negroponte. Since forming DigitalForm in 1996, the agency has created Web sites for Versace, cosmetics firm Sisley and former Luxlook. DigitalForm’s mission of reinventing traditional content is illustrated through the Versace Web site, which originally launched in December 2000. “Not only are we working on the fall-winter update of their intensive swimwear and fragrance lines, but we’re also taking their print ad campaigns and layering them to tell a more elaborate story,” said Farhad Farman-Farmaian. “That, to me, is how the Web is crafting the ad campaign of the future. You can use the Web to go beyond the print campaign, to give a backstory,” he continued. “In fact, Versace is now shooting print ad campaigns with the Internet in mind.” In the Versace Jeans Couture print ad campaign, for instance, the Web site uses the still photos as a jumping-off point for a faux-scratchy video version of the campaign, making it look like a silent movie. “Ultimately, it allows a further visualization of the brand,” said Farhad Farman-Farmaian.
Their vision has evidently caught on: Last month DigitalForm won the Art Directors’ Club Merit Award for their work on the Versace Web site.
Despite accolades for their online projects, DigitalForm seems dedicated to redefining and broadening the concept of luxury to encompass all forms of refined leisure. “We’re not just a Web design company,” said Mader, rather emphatically. “We worked with the ‘Net the last two years because that’s where the demand was. But ultimately, we’re dedicated to using technology to merge physical and virtual space.” As a result, their projects tend to be diffuse, from a 1998 CD-ROM for Yves Saint Laurent that celebrated 40 years of YSL design, to a virtual museum CD-ROM for the Centre Pompidou in Paris.