Interior Design recently caught up with Ralph Pucci at his New York City showroom where he was celebrating the launch of his new book “Wall'. The designer talked to us about what inspires him, who he admires and his career trajectory from mannequin manufacturer to modern art and design aficionado.
ID: Is there one piece of furniture or art you’d like to have in your home but don’t?
RP: I have a Herve Van Der Straten piece in the showroom that doesn’t fit [in my home]. For lack of a better word, it’s a console with mirrored sides and red lacquered feet. It’s so modern, so the future, but not tricky or trendy. It’s one of one, and it’s just too big.
ID: Who are the people you admire the most or who have influenced your work?
RP: I love Jim Zivic’s industrial chic spirit. He has lots of unique ideas, and he uses unexpected materials too complicated to copy. And I met Patrick Naggar through Andrée Putman. Each of Patrick’s collection is unique, quality furniture that’s under appreciated in the world. I’d put him up there with anyone on the top list of furniture designers.
ID: Andrée Putman designed mannequins for you, then asked you to represent her furniture. How did that come about?
RP: She loved the way we did presentations. I always saw mannequins and furniture as sculpture, which needs space, a room to look at. Other dealers put 100 pieces in a showroom I’d fill with 20.
ID: Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
RP: Listening to music is a big part of my creative process. I listen to jazz, R&B, rock, and see furniture and mannequins.
ID: What projects are you working on?
RP: We’re just putting to bed the new book [“Wall']. The book is only $30 so kids at Pratt and FIT can look at it, buy it, and maybe think, “One day I’m going to drop off something, or design a mural for Pucci.'
ID: With 20 years of options, how did you select the installations featured in “Wall'?
RP: When you hit it, you really know it. These are the best. When you look back, a lot of things look dated. This book looks fresh because all the work in it is timeless. My portrait, with that Armani suit, is the only picture that does not hold up.
ID: You’re known for your aesthetic sensibility, so how did you know the physical, manual part of design was not for you?
RP: From when you’re a kid you know. I can’t even put a nail in the wall. I never casted or sprayed or even packed a mannequin, but I was in the factory a lot, looking at invoices and orders. I’m a promoter, an explorer.
ID: What do you do to relax?
RP: I sit by my pool, or the ocean. And I spend most of my time in museums and galleries. I love DIA- Beacon, and MASS MoCa, and Berlin has one gallery better than the next.
ID: Is there one moment in your career that stands out as particularly rewarding?
RP: There are many. Meeting and creating with Andrée Putman … Christy Turlington too. Maira Kalman revolutionizing the mannequin world. Working with Vlad Kagan. Seeing David Weeks go from a tiny booth at the furniture fair to a 30,000-square-foot space in stride with the greatest designers. And the Pratt paper project—two kids are in [my] new book. Imagine in 20 years when they look back and see themselves there.
ID: What’s a mistake common to young designers, something they need to overcome to succeed?
RP: Trying to do too much; trying to be Marcel Wanders or Philippe Starck. Be aware of what the great designers are doing but don’t copy. Find a unique voice. And don’t play too many notes. Less is more.
By Sara Pepitone
Photography by Patrick McMullan.