In Depth

The new Pucci: Christelle Kocher on her vision for the heritage house

Parisian designer talks swirling prints and high-society clients

Even before Christelle Kocher landed her new gig as the first guest designer to take Emilio Pucci into a new era, she was something of an expert on the Florentine heritage house. “I bought the biography so I know the history by heart,” says the Parisian designer, who also runs her own label Koché, which is informed by a streetwear-meets-couture ethos. “It was an honour for me, it has such a great heritage in terms of colour and history.  and I felt very close to its aesthetic – very joyful, very festive.” 

Since the April 2017 departure of Massimo Giorgetti, Pucci had been without a creative director. But far from being daunted by her new role, Kocher swotted up in order to hone her approach to the brand’s glamorous biography theme and vibrant design codes. The archives were “the Ali Baba cave for me, I could have stayed a week”, she adds. Over the years, the label has courted such famous admirers as Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gwyneth Paltrow. And pieces of Liz Taylor’s Pucci wardrobe were sold by auction house Christie’s in 2011.

In January this year, Pucci announced the appointment of Kocher - who also serves as artistic director of Chanel-owned feather and florist maison d’art Maison Lemarié - as part of a new strategy to open up its archives to “creative voices” and allow them to interpret its iconic prints and lifestyle collections. 

The Central Saint Martins graduate launched her own label in 2014 and subsequently became known for her anti-Parisian-cliché style, scooping her the industry’s prestigious ANDAM Grand Prize last year - so she might not have seemed like the most obvious contender for a team-up with such a classic, Italian legacy brand. But the sceptics should consider her first collection for Pucci (shown in the 16th century church of San Paolo Converso during Milan Fashion Week back in February). Her blue and black ruched-front polo dress draped in pearls with swirly lace tights (below), for example, was both slinky and sporty, punky and cool, cleverly fusing the two brand identities into one. Their common ground: sportswear.

“It’s something I love,” she says of that polo dress, during a phone chat while on holiday in Spain. “It’s something very special, very comfortable, very feminine but fresh.” Which was, overall, her intention for the collection. “I think I bring youth and contemporaneity, joy and liveliness.”  

Founded in 1947 by Marquis Emilio Pucci (or as he has become known, the “Prince of Prints”), Pucci began life as a luxury sportswear brand in Capri, and took its inspiration from natural landscapes, architecture and exotic cultures to create the signature swirly kaleidoscopic designs that are so instantly recognisable today. In 2000, luxury French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH acquired 67% of the company.

“Everybody knows Pucci’s bright and colourful patterns,” says Kocher. “Personally, I own two swimsuits that I bought in some vintage shop when I was 18 and living in London. And I cherished them so much and I wore them until I couldn’t wear them.” Her take on Pucci features a new interpretation of the Lupa and Selva monograms from the 1957-designed Palio collection, as well as a new logo that brings the worlds of Koché and Pucci together in one collegiate badge-style motif. Bold, bright and clashy colours dress up comfortable casuals such as tracksuits, Bermuda shorts and oversized T-shirts to give an overall mischievous but sultry feel – the latter by way of slips and handkerchief hems. “It was very important that I felt the mix of the brand,” she says.

Technology was also something that Kocher was keen to embrace. A Pucci pattern was printed onto a feather coat using a new technique created by Lemarié. And at the show itself, an installation with a VR headset offered an advance 3D preview of the collection via wall-to-ceiling video screens and holograms; while two merch-style stands greeted show-goers with the option to customise logo T-shirts.

“It was very important for me [to do the installation] because I felt like I wanted to reconnect with this youth spirit, with this fresh spirit,” Kocher explains. “Today, we are all on our phones with our social media, with technology, so I wanted to bring the technology element into it. This new way of working and this new way of presenting the brand that also felt very contemporary.”

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