In the world of contemporary interior design Ralph Pucci is the icon who creates the trends rather than follow them. We certainly know him for his showroom which boasts unparalleled originality as it redefines contemporary interior design style, and for the furniture designers that he put on the map through the years. But do you know HIS backstory? This Q&A only scratches the surface on how interesting a man Ralph Pucci is.
Q1) The EIC of Architectural Digest described you as "quietly philanthropic, deeply influential and so creative" as you were about to win a significant award. That is high praise. Congratulations, and please tell us about the Kips Bay award you received this year
RP: To be recognized by the giants of the design industry is a tremendous honor and to have the award presented by Margaret Russell of Architectural Digest was extraordinary- she has been a champion of my work for over 25 years and it was greatly appreciated.
Q2) Your start - in the mannequin business- is fascinating; tell us about the origins of that part of your business.
RP: My parents started Pucci Mannequin Repairs in the basement of their home in 1954. I joined the family business in 1976 and we immediately started to develop and create our own mannequins. My parents were open to new ideas. The mannequin trend at that time was very elegant ladylike mannequins with makeup and soft wigs. We did a collection of Action mannequins in swimming and gymnast poses, very few features almost abstract, sprayed high gloss colors- there were no makeup or wigs- more of a sculptural approach. The collection exuded power. It was a big success. I learned very early in my career to go against the grain. There was no reason for us to do another ladylike mannequin- the ones on the market were beautiful and we could not do it better. We found our own voice.
Q3) While we are on the topic of mannequins, lets talk about the MAD Museum- tell us about the motion red series:
RP: My mannequins will be part of a show at Museum of Art and Design MAD this summer called NYC MAKERS. To think that the Pucci Mannequins started as a repair company and now it is having a museum show is a tremendous honor and very gratifying. To my knowledge this will be the first time mannequins will be exhibited as "works of art". The collection that will be shown is our most recent collection, MOTION 2. It will be shown in high gloss red. The poses are dance inspired; when I look at the collection I always hear the Miles Davis classic record Bitches Brew - funky choppy rhythmic movements. The presentation will be very simple and graphic - inspired by Donald Judd and Marfa.
Q4) The Andree Putman exhibition is beautiful, please share with us the back-story on your work together, bringing us to the collection on the floor today and the event held in her honor.
RP: I met Andree Putman in 1985. I was chosen by Barneys to develop a mannequin with Andree for their new woman's store in Chelsea. The female mannequins at that time were very waif like and demure - Andree created The Olympian Goddess: A powerful, confident art-decoish mannequin that could wear the groundbreaking clothes of the moment by Azzadine Alaia, Thierry Mugler and Karl Lagerfeld. For the show I asked a very young
Isabel Toledo to dress the mannequins- the opening was legendary.
RP: Over a 1,000 people attended from the fashion, design, art, visual and business worlds. Uptown mixed with downtown- then Andy Warhol and Keith Haring showed up - they started to sign their autographs on t-shirts , dress shirts, hats even breasts. It made the NY Post Page 6 the next day.
RP: This kind of opening was unheard of in the mannequin world. I went on to develop 2 more mannequins with Andree -The Husband and the Mistress- and then in 1990, I started to represent and sell her furniture. She is the reason I am in
the furniture world. I worked with Andree Putman until her death last year and just last week to coincide with the 2014 ICFF we created and developed a furniture collection with Andree's daughter Olivia Putman of a few iconic pieces mixed in with some ideas that were on the drawing board before she became ill. Working with Andree Putman opened my eyes to so many new ideas.
Developing this new furniture collection entitled TIME FLIES is one of my most gratifying achievements. To keep the name Andree Putman alive and relevant in the United States is very crucial and important. For the backdrop of the collection Studio Putman created a photomural from images of the "historic" 1985 mannequin opening in my loft in soho.
Text by Courtney Price