While in New York, I had the opportunity to have a delightful conversation with design icon Ralph Pucci, along with a personal tour of his swank appointment-only showroom which occupies multiple floors of a building in the Flatiron district. Ralph Pucci is a fascinating person to talk to, surprisingly modest and unassuming for the span of his accomplishments. He is an enthusiastic conversationalist, both inspiring and inspired- he clearly processes things on a heightened level, using all senses and intuition in a way that enables him to create the trends rather than follow them. His story is interesting -In 1976 he joined his parents’ mannequin repair business, and took the mannequin business to places it had never been… Ralph Pucci made mannequins into an art form, gave them life, got them gallery & museum exhibit status.
He has worked with big names like Andree Putman, went into the furniture business, rubbed elbows with the likes of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, created bright futures for designers, helped countless students. Just last month he received a Kips Bay award. He is an incredibly passionate, kind and generous person.
Together we will walk through the Ralph Pucci showroom, with Q&A, to give you a sense of the mind behind the incredible design…
His showroom currently exhibits the Andree Putman collection named “Time Flies”, of a few iconic pieces and even some pieces that were on the drawing board before she became ill. The exhibition is a respectful nod to her talent and the many years they worked together.
The legendary French designer Andree Putman, who designed the Morgan Hotel, the interior of the French Concord, as well as, countless museums, galleries, and boutiques worldwide, designed her first mannequin for Pucci in 1985. The mannequin, “Olympian Goddess” was so successful and groundbreaking, she went on to design “the Husband” and “the Mistress”. This was the beginning of a long personal and business relationship. After being asked by Andree to exclusively represent her Ecart International in the United States in 1990, Ralph found himself in the furniture business. In 2000, Andree created “6 Easy Pieces” a “timeless” furniture collection produced under license in the Pucci workshops. Ralph continues to this day to work with Studio Putman with Andree’s daughter Olivia.
What are your thoughts on trends, and how do they affect your design?
RP: Trends are good to know but deadly to follow. You must have your own voice. You develop this by going to museums, galleries, listening to all types of music, reading – you have to have your eyes and ears open at all times, to be a sponge for new ideas. You have to go on your gut and instincts. Have passion.
Will you please share the Jens Risom story?
RP: Jens Risom. I met Jens when he was 85 years old. He was a mid-century design icon but sort of forgotten. The lines of his furniture are very clean and simple. We agreed to bring back his classics and it has been an enormous success. Jens Risom is now a “household” name in the design world and I am very proud of this achievement. He is a remarkable man. Elegant, sophisticated, intelligent with a strong original point of view. He just celebrated his 98 Birthday. We are planning to launch another small collection of furniture sometime in 2015.
Please tell us about the new fabulous new line of Kids furniture:
RP: The new Kids furniture is from Vladimir Kagan. On the night of the Kips Bay award I credited Andree Putman, Jens Risom and Vladimir Kagan as 3 designers who have had to most influence on me. Looking back on my career, having had the privilege and opportunity to work with them has been monumental. Vladi is always looking to create new work, new ideas. He created children furniture from his iconic pieces from the 1950′s. We are currently at the beginning stages of developing limited edition art furniture together that will premier 2015 in my Miami gallery during Art Basel. His best work is yet to come. Vladi is in his late 80′s.
The Jim Zivic new outdoor hammock- do you still sell the older version that was on the other floor?
I am hoping that I still have photos of that, I never stopped thinking about it.
RP: Jim Zivic is one of our young creative minds. He always thinks out of the box. He is 100% original. His hammock will become a design Icon.
Can we talk about the above gorgeous screen (it is special edition of 5 ) – Wow! gorgeous!
RP: The screen was designed by Gabriella Kiss, who is the wife of one of my best and most important designers Chris Lehreceke. Chris is a master craftsman. Wood is his medium. Gabrilella is a jeweler, she created the bronze pulls and a few pieces for the Chris Lehrecke/Gabrilella Kiss show “After The Storm”.
Tell us about your new collections and inspiration-
RP: We have lots going on at the moment. We just showcased new lighting by 2 young designers John Wigmore and Michael Anastassiades. I am going to Paris in a few days to see the collection that the legendary Elizabeth Garouste has created exclusively for us as well as bronze lighting by Philippe Antonioz, who was Diego Giacometti assistant. An upcoming furniture show by Patrick Naggar will be shown during Art Basel 2014 in our great new gallery in Wynwood Art District and a new mannequin collection called MODEL will be shown in December.
What do you look for in people to partner with for design?
RP: I look for fresh ideas. I look for designers who are original thinkers, who are not afraid to take chances but at the same time the ideas are classic and timeless. Nothing trendy or of the moment.
Currently reading or listening to….
RP: I am going with my family on vacation to Japan early July so I am getting ready to read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murkami.
I am always trying to listen to new music but at the moment I seem to be listening to Haydn and Satie.
One final question…for now, what advice would you impart to designers?
RP: The advice I always give to young designers is to be true to your beliefs. Do not play too many or unnecessary notes. Keep it simple. Be original.
Text by Courtney Price