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Pucci in Portland

It began with the Reed Ski Team

Emilio Pucci embodied the post-war ideal of Italian style. His modern designs retained the Old World romance of the Florentine palazzos, Capri getaways, and Renaissance paintings that inspired them. His birthright as the Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento only added to their glamorous aura.

Yet it was here in Portland that Pucci was first recognized as a fashion designer. A former Olympic skier, Pucci came to ski on Mount Hood. As growing unrest in Europe cut off access to his fortune, Pucci struck an unlikely deal with the President of Reed College. In return for tuition, room and board, Pucci formed Reed’s first ski team.

In addition to coaching, Pucci designed modern uniforms for his team. In 1937, he invited film crews to capture his athletic wear in action.

Eleven years later, Pucci’s instinct was proven right. The Italian’s international career was launched when photographs of skiers sporting his designs were published in Harper’s Bazaar. Soon Pucci designs were worn by celebrities, housewives, and even the Apollo 15 astronauts.

Pucci returned to Portland several times. On a visit in 1957, he hosted a benefit runway show in the space that is now the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Sculpture Court, where our Italian Style runway stands today.

Pucci’s mark can still be found around Portland. Mount Hood’s Pucci chairlift and Pucci Glade carry his name. Reed sweatshirts feature his double griffin design. Even the iconic Portland, Oregon sign is a remnant of the White Stag company, manufacturers of Pucci’s early skiwear.

The large window in the stairwell leading up to the main Italian Style exhibition features a detail of Pucci’s 1965 ‘Dalia’ motif. See more of Pucci’s designs in Italian Style, including a trouser suit in this pattern.

Page from the 1937 Griffin yearbook showing Emilio Pucci wearing the Reed Ski Team uniform he designed. Courtesy of the Reed Hauser Library Special Collections.