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Pucci's Launch Party

Wall Street Journal May 2009

Pucci's Launch PartyPucci's Launch PartyPucci's Launch Party

“It’s freezing, darling,' said Barneys creative director Simon Doonan on Monday night, when I couldn’t help but remark on his bushy black sheepskin Martin Margiela coat. Granted, it was uncharacteristically cool for a May evening, but did temperatures in the low 50s warrant a coat more befitting for Belarus? Simon, you look like you’re about to go dog sledding—I’m schvitzing just looking at you. As we stood in design connoisseur Ralph Pucci’s enormous Flat Iron loft, where we’d gathered to toast Pucci’s new coffee-table to me Show, I asked Doonan what he thought of Pucci’s famous collection of mannequins, which was how Pucci began his career as a collector.

True to form, Simon waxed eloquent on the subject, explaining how Pucci had modernized the mannequin as a design concept by recruiting creative talent from many fields to collaborate on his ranges, from designer Andree Putnam to model Christy Turlington, to artist Ruben Toledo and children’s book author Maira Kalman. “It is—absolument!—a piece of sculpture. Ralph does couture mannequins!' said Doonan.

Pucci of course still manufactures mannequins, but tonight was the night to appreciate his seminal work with masterful furniture designers both old and new–particularly legendary modern-furniture pioneer Vladimir Kagan, whose 1950s masterpieces were on display. “Ralph Pucci throws fabulous parties!' exclaimed our host, Elle Decor editor Margaret Russell, wearing a sleeveless red Prada dress and high black Louboutins, seamlessly matching the black Velcro ankle brace on her right leg.

She was still sporting it after an evening I’d spent with her some months ago at Doonan’s home, along with India Hicks, Hamish Bowles and Liz Lange, where she’d fractured her ankle. “Ralph is a visionary who takes risks on people,' she continued. “Anybody in the world of arts, architecture, and design is here tonight.'

Indeed, there were such Pucci collaborators as the artist Kenny Scharf, fashion designer Anna Sui, and an interior designer’s fantasy come true of the world’s finest furniture designers such as Vladimir Kagan, Jens Risom, and Paul Mathieu. Doonan’s beloved hubby, furniture designer Jonathan Adler, couldn’t help but salivate over the seminal Kagan pieces. “Anything Kagan I’m mad for,' said Adler, noting that Pucci elevated design to the level of art, enabling furniture to command prices and recognition that was previously only afforded artists.

I couldn’t agree more—and neither could the stellar designers themselves. “Hooking up with Ralph was a blessing,' said designer Chris Lehrecke, whose sculptural wooden furniture Pucci promoted. “I have a very nice life and have Ralph to thank for it. He gave me my first break.' But perhaps no one personified the evening’s joie de vivre better than a beaming 81-year-old Kagan, dressed in a super-chic, pajama-like, red silk Nehru jacket with matching pants. “To see all these great treasures, my god, they’re as young today as when I designed them,' said Kagan as the B-52’s blasted in the background. “It’s fun to be alive!'

By: Jeffrey Podolsky