Fiorucci is an Italian fashion label founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967. The first shop exposed Milan to the styles of Swinging London and American classics such as the T-shirt and jeans. By the late 1970s and early 1980s this would be reversed, and the New York store would become famous for the fashions it introduced to the United States. Known as the "daytime Studio 54", it attracted trendsetters from Andy Warhol to a young Madonna.
As a leader in the globalisation of fashion Fiorucci would scour the globe, introducing a newly affluent mass market to underground trends such as thongs from Brazil and Afghan coats. The label popularised camouflage prints and leopard-skin prints before creating the designer jean market with the invention of stretch jeans. The iconic advertising usually featured a woman's buttocks in skin-tight denim, or in one case obscured by pink fluffy handcuffs, whilst the company logo is two cheeky angels modelled after Raphael's cherubs. However, mismanagement of the company led to receivership in 1989, and since then the brand has been dogged by legal battles over the trademarks, and several relaunches have failed to make much impact.
Elio Fiorucci was born in Milan on 10 June 1935, son of a shoe shop owner. One day in 1962, Elio came up with the idea of making galoshes in bright primary colours whilst working at his father's shop. When they were featured in a local weekly fashion magazine, the galoshes caused a sensation. Following a trip to London in 1965, Elio was determined to bring Carnaby Street fashions to Milan. He opened his first shop on Galleria Passerella in Milan on 31 May 1967 selling clothes by London designers such as Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes.
In 1968 Fiorucci looked East for inspiration, buying cheap T-shirts from India, and turning rice sacks into bags. Two years later the company set up its own manufacturing plant, and adopted the "two angels" logo created by Italo Lupi. In 1974 the company opened a huge new store on Via Torino in Milan, expanding beyond fashion to offer books, furniture and music. The new shop also had a performance area, vintage clothing market, and restaurant, and was financed by an investment from the Standa department stores, part of the Montedison group. Meanwhile the label introduced the monokini and thong from Brazil, causing controversy with the topless photos used to advertise them. Glass beads from New Mexico were another hit. In 1975 the company opened its first store overseas, on the Kings Road in London, and launched a children's collection called Fioruccino. It brought Afghan coats to the mass market, and popularised the leopard-skin prints first created by Elsa Schiaparelli two decades before.
The 1976 opening of the store down the block from Bloomingdale's, on East 59th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues in New York, introduced the brand to American trendsetters during the disco age. Customers such as Marc Jacobs Cher and Terence Conran would rub shoulders with Jackie Onassis and Lauren Bacall, you might see drag queen Joey Arias serving the King of Spain, author Douglas Coupland absorbing the store's pop culture or Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt buying some jeans. In the early 1980s the Fiorucci art director was jewelry designer Maripol, known for creating Madonna's look at the time. Other employees included Madonna's brother Christopher Ciccone, Terry Jones of i-D magazine fame, Oliviero Toscani, who shot many of the famous Benetton ads, and famed interior designer Jim Walrod.
In May 1979 cartoon/graffiti-based artist Kenny Scharf had his first solo exhibition in the New York store, called "Fiorucci Celebrates the New Wave" and featured his colorful, retro-futuristic "Estelle Series." The opening included a performance by Klaus Nomi, the new wave opera singer.
Meanwhile, the company continued to bring new products to market, including a collection made from DuPont's new Tyvek fabric, and velvet slippers from China. In 1978 they were the first fashion house to license their name for a collection of sunglasses, whilst in 1981 a Disney licence led to a highly successful range of clothes emblazoned with Mickey Mouse. Ever on the pulse of the times, Fiorucci sponsored the reunion of Simon and Garfunkel in The Concert in Central Park on 19 September 1981, attended by 400,000 people or more, and on the bill for their birthday party in 1983 was a then-unknown Madonna. In 1982 the company launched the first stretch jeans with Lycra, and the success of the 5-pocket "Safety" jeans was recognised three years later in a licensing deal with Wrangler Jeans. In 1987 Fiorucci produced the Junior Gaultier line designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, and in 1989 they went back to their roots with a deal with Vivienne Westwood, queen of the London street scene.
The company expanded rapidly after 1978, launching new stores across the US, Europe and Asia. In 1981 Benetton bought Montedison's 50% stake in Fiorucci, which was reduced to 33.3% in 1986 when Elio Fiorucci brought in Iranian businessman Massimo Aki Nuhi (Akinouhi) as a third partner via his holding company Aknofin. Benetton sold their remaining stake to Fiorucci and Aki Nuhi in August 1987. Despite thriving sales, the company was dogged by poor management and had to close the New York store in 1986; Betsey Johnson has suggested "Fiorucci was the most happening place. It never stopped being happening â" it just left New York City, because I don't think New York City was happening enough by the mid-80's". Fiorucci closed down the rest of the US retail locations in 1988 after a franchise dispute, moving instead to a wholesale strategy. The company went into administration in April 1989 following a dispute over the strategic direction of the firm that had seen Elio offer to buy out Aki Nuhi.
The company was rescued by the Tacchella brothers of Italian jeans company Carrera S.p.A., who sold on the company to Japanese jeans group Edwin Co., Ltd for 45bn lire (~US$41m). In January 1996 after a plea bargain, Elio Fiorucci was given a suspended jail sentence of 22 months for inflating the value of invoices to increase the value of the company to Carrera at the expense of his creditors. Luciano Benetton was cleared of similar charges, on the grounds that he had not been involved at an operational level during his time (September 1985 - September 1987) on the board of Fiorucci.
Originally Edwin planned to launch five stores in key cities like London, but although they signed an initial deal on 4 June 1990 that was ratified that October, Edwin did not gain control of the Fiorucci assets until May 1992. In fact they would later lose the rights to the Fiorucci name in Canada on the grounds of disuse. However, one of Edwin's first acts was a deal with Coles Myer that would see 68 Fiorucci concessions in stores across Australia. They opened a new store in Piazza San Babila, Milan in early 1993, that included a variety of branded boutiques. It took them longer to get things going in North America, after a 1993 deal with Mary Ann Wheaton of Wheaton International fell through. In 1995 they licensed the rights for eyewear in the US to Swan International Optical, and then opened a US office in September 1997. However, the strategy of their licensee, Stephen Budd, to sell the brand into US department stores didn't work out so in 1999 they announced a plan to open a New York store once again. The initial plan was to open in time for Christmas 1999, but the store on lower Broadway finally opened its doors in June 2001. Commentators such as Kim Hastreiter were sceptical that it could recapture the buzz of times past, given the increased competition in mass-market clubbing gear from the likes of H&M and The Limited.
Meanwhile the brand continued to thrive in Europe, and regained some of its former notoriety in 1995 with a poster campaign for its jeans featuring a naked woman's buttocks and pink furry handcuffs, which became instant bestsellers. In 1999 it launched a successful perfume, followed by a second, Fiorucci Loves You, in 2001, and "Miss Fiorucci" makeup in 2003. Edwin have been aggressively expanding the brand throughout Asia, from Seoul to Tokyo and China.
Although Elio Fiorucci retained creative control during the Edwin era, they are protective of the Fiorucci trademarks, and have taken legal action against H&M in the US when Elio designed their Poolside line. He has also set up a brand of his own called Love Therapy, and designed for Agent Provocateur.
In March 2003, Elio Fiorucci announced that after 36 years, he was closing the doors to his historic shop in Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, Milan. When Fiorucci hit the scene nearly 40 years ago, he blew Italy - and the rest of the world - away with a larger-than-life attitude. He brought in the new and unexpected, pre-dating the surge of today's "lifestyle" stores. Fiorucci mixed clothing with beauty products, vintage items, music and home furnishings. He even used his retail space for artistic performances. Elio said the reason he was closing his shop was because he had "fallen out of love" with fashion.
Elio became an ethical vegetarian.
In popular culture
In 1979, along with Halston and Gucci, Fiorucci was memorably name-checked in the Sister Sledge disco song, "He's The Greatest Dancer".
Another artist,singer and songwriter Terence Boylan, also name-checked Fiorucci in his 1980 song, Shake Your Fiorucci [(Suzy Terence Boylan Asylum 6E-201 (1980)].
The Beverly Hills Fiorucci store was featured in the 1980 cult classic movie Xanadu, where the ELO video "All Over the World" was filmed.
Christopher Ciccone stated in his book "Life With My Sister, Madonna" that he worked at the Manhattan store in the early 80's; also stating that is where he met his lover. British artist Mark Leckey used the brand name in his landmark work from 2000, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.
The 1981 EP Minor Disturbance by American punk band The Teen Idles featured the song "Fiorucci Nightmare".
Notes and references
- Babitz, Eve (1980), Fiorucci: The Book, Milan: Harlin Quist, distributed by Dial/Delacorte, p.Â 144, ISBNÂ 978-0-8252-2608-3Â Published at the height of the label's influence, this book is now a sought-after record of the time, selling for US$100's.
- Malossi, Giannino (1987), Liberi Tutti: 20 Anni di Moda Spettacolo, Milan: Lampi di Stampa (published October 2007), ISBNÂ 978-88-488-0629-9Â New edition of book originally published in 1987
- Mulassano, Adriana (1979), I Mass-moda: Fatti e Personaggi dell'Italian Look, Florence: Spinelli EditoreÂ
- Connikie, Yvonne (1990), Fashions of a Decade: The 1960s, London: Batsford Ltd (published 1990-11-05), p.Â 64, ISBNÂ 978-0-7134-6437-5Â Also available in US editions
- www.fiorucci.it Official website
- "Posters".Â Go to History -> Barcelona Defile -> Posters to see a gallery of Fiorucci's iconic advertising
- "fiorucci: interview with elio fiorucci,fashion designer, talent scout, entrepreneur and communicator". 2000-06-30. Retrieved 2008-04-29.Â Pretty frivolous interview, but gives you an idea of what the man is like