Education and Early Career

Reared within a strict aristocratic environment, Pucci turned out to be a rebel both personally and professionally. He graduated from the Universita di Firenze in 1941 with a doctorate in political science, after having attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, and Reed College in Portland, Oregon. His decision to study in the United States, however, introduced him to the American way of life.

Proficiency in skiing started Pucci's fashion career. He had been a member of the Italian Olympic skiing team in 1934 and had gone to Reed College on a skiing scholarship in 1937. In 1947 the photographer Toni Frissell took photographs of Pucci and his female companions in Zermatt, Switzerland, wearing form-fitting, colorful, but practical ski clothes that Pucci had designed. These photographs were shown to the head buyer for Lord and Taylor, Marjorie Griswold, and the fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar, the legendary Diana Vreeland. The pictures were published in the December 1948 issue of Bazaar, while several Pucci models were ordered for Lord and Taylor's New York store. This order was Pucci's first retail success in the United States.

Pucci, however, needed additional financial security after World War II. In 1949 he opened a boutique in Capri, Italy, where he sold the tapered pants that became known as Capri pants, as well as sexy silk shirts fitted to show off the female figure. With the return of peace, people were again traveling for pleasure. Pucci astutely surmised that his boutique, which he named Emilio of Capri, and his casual, colorful resort fashions would be popular with the new visitors. International sophisticates like Consuelo Crespi, Mona Harrison von Bismarck, and Maxime de la Falaise were frequent customers at Emilio of Capri. Diana Vreeland praised Pucci as "divinely Italian" (Kennedy, p. 57). Although it was extremely unusual at that time for an aristocrat to be a shop owner and designer or dressmaker, Pucci enjoyed the creative process.

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