Avant-garde pioneer Ralph Pucci reflects on the evolution of his business and why California is a great place to break the rules
Q. Your Los Angeles showroom is coming up on its 10th anniversary in 2016. How has the showroom evolved since its opening?
A. When we first opened the LA showroom, the products and presentations were clean and modern but also safe and expected. Over the years, I've tried to push the envelope by making rare, limited-edition pieces a part of the vocabulary. As I've grown to feel more secure, the audience continues to encourage me to take chances and to raise the bar. I have also started to add live music and dance during the openings to complete the visual message.
Q. Do you recall your first visit to California and what impressed you the most?
A. I always feel the same when I come to California. There is a freedom that I love. There are no set rules of how to do something it's very refreshing.
Q. What work are Californians drawn to in your showroom as opposed to Miami or NYC?
A. There seems to be a consistency among the audiences, whether it is a Ralph Pucci showroom in New York, Miami, or LA the work that is truly different is what sells.
Q. You began your career by inheriting your parents' mannequin factory at age 22, where you started to collaborate with artists and Designers. Did you have any idea of where you wanted the business to go, or did evolve?
A. It evolved gradually, but I was never afraid to take chances and let young creative talent be involved in the visual process. That is the reason I feel that the company is successful today.
Q. What influence has Andrée Putman had on your work?
A. Andrée has been a gigantic influence on my work. We started working together in 1985 when we created the "Olympian Goddess" mannequin, and I continue to work to this day with her daughter, Olivia. It is because of Andrée that I am in the furniture business. It is like I was a pianist and took lessons from Thelonious Monk.
Q. Do you represent any California artists?
A. I represent Lianne Gold, who is a lighting designer. She is what I call a rebel. There are no design rules for her, just the total freedom to explore.
Q. We hear that you love jazz. How does it influence your work?
A. I love the freedom and timelessness of jazz. All three showrooms always have a jazz soundtrack playing. Miles Davis, Modern Jazz Quartet, Billie Holiday. I am a big fan of West Coast jazz. I tend to play lots of Chet Baker and Stan Getz in the LA showroom. It feels so right!
By Katherine Nelson