Relatives of the artist, ceramist and fashion designer Giuseppe Picone are reimagining his work for devotees and newfound fans.
Influenced by Nordic design, the Neapolitan-born Picone ventured out on his own after working for Krizia and Cole of California. A forerunner in the generation that was defined by the Made in Italy movement, the somewhat unsung designer closed his company in Rome in 2005, three years before his death.
For much of his 50-plus year career, Picone worked alongside of his stylist wife Dominique Giroud. Now the design mantle has been passed to his stepdaughter, Sophie Morichi, and granddaughter, Martina Bersan, who prefer to run Studio Picone from Milan. Giroud still offers her input as a consultant, but “her role is to approve,” Morichi said. “She’s the historian. It’s difficult to work with three generations.”
Picone’s graphic prints are the basis of all the women’s clothing, ceramics and yet-to-be-released textiles, though his family has tweaked dimensions and colors used in some prints for select products. “We have made little changes to stay more modern and to stay in touch with young people. We are trying to find a way to pass this on to the next generation,” Morichi said.
Picone’s signature character, “Bretino,” will continued to be featured prominently in all of the designs. The “little priestlike” icon was inspired by a group of young Jesuits wearing cassocks whose symmetry intrigued Picone one afternoon in Posillipo, Italy. “He was fascinated by the contrast between the black tunic and the Mediterranean light. When he settled in Roma in 1958, he considered the Jesuits as part of the city, [and they provided] lots of points and lines scanning the urban landscape,” Morichi said.
Bretino can be found in all sorts of Picone-made products featured in “Archivio Studio Picone Roma,” essentially a picture book of his work that A+M Bookstore published in 2013 under the guidance of his family. Now they have approached executives at the Triennale di Milano museum about potentially having an exhibition dedicated to the work of Picone, since that is where he first exhibited some of his creations in 1954. In the meantime, they are selling the remaining Picone clothing inventory, which has been sold to about 15 stores through a Milan showroom.
Discontented with recent retail sales, the mother-daughter team plan to take the 25-piece collection in-house for a relaunch after summer 2016. With scarves retailing for upward of $77, tunics at $121 and wool dresses at $385 (based on current exchange rates), the collection may have been too pricey for clients, according to Morichi. “We may have to sell directly or maybe sell online. We’re trying to find the best way to tell this story,” she said. “We want to continue with clothing but not necessarily in the fashion world. We may try to do something like Marimekko where the same pattern can stay on a plate or skirt or textiles, but with more of a Mediterranean or Neopolitan feel. That’s a given because Giuseppe was from Napoli. But this will be more ironic.”
While Picone’s business was “very small” in Europe, during his lifetime, his brand has always been robust in Japan, where it was first introduced in the Seventies. So much so, that Biki Japan Ltd. bought the rights to distribute Picone in Asia. The Osaka-based company has had such success with the Studio Picone and Picone Club in Japan that it is now broadening distribution to China, South Korea and Hong Kong, Morichi said.
Borrowing a page from Marimekko, Studio Picone plans to introduce fabrics and textiles that can be used for upholstery, curtains, tablecloths and other home decor products. A 20-year career as an architect helped Morichi sharpen her own artistic eye before collaborating with her father on residential projects when he was in the autumn of his career. “For me, this whole thing is different and it’s a new world. But I decided years ago that I wanted to help tell my father’s story,” she said.